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Columbus strives to attract more visitors

Experience Columbus President Paul Astleford says the stakes are huge when Columbus competes with Nashville, Louisville, Detroit and other regional cities for conventioneers and visitors. In 2005, out-of towners spent $5.3 billion locally on entertainment, meals, hotel rooms, cabs and other services. Tax take: $456 million in revenue. But, Astleford says the city is handicapped by a lack of identity in the global economy.

Author and featured speaker Scott Russell Sanders suggests the city could be more distinct and more attractive to visitors by saturating some of its current attractions with stories and history and admit that the city is shaped by its weather and geography. It would be great if there were mountains next to Columbus or if there were a great lake next to Columbus, but that's not the case, Sanders says. And so I think what you do have to emphasize is the assets that are already here. The top soil that surrounds Columbus is one of its great assets. Columbus could feed itself in a way in which many American cities could not feed itself. Las Vegas would starve, for example, if they had to produce their own food nearby. Sanders says future economic prosperity for cities will take more than 'civic pride.'