Warsaw is refocusing efforts on its tourism development--bicycling, walking, and trails--and seeing big results | Missouri Chamber of Commerce

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When Warsaw was first settled, the Osage River played a big role in the area’s success as a pipeline for immigration and commerce. In modern times, the river and lake are still the most important resources for the area, but in a different way.

Tourism is king in Warsaw, and the economy depends on the Osage River and Truman Lake as recreational resources. Benton County has more than 1,000 miles of lake coastline and more than 1,000 miles of river access, but the City of Warsaw and Benton County as a whole have just started to take advantage of this valuable resource to draw new business and grow existing ones.

“You couldn’t rent a bike or kayak ten years ago,” says Irv Jensen, executive director of the Benton County Development Corporation.
Benton County Courthouse

The Benton County Courthouse

Today, renting a bike or kayak is easy. In fact, one of the biggest business success stories in Warsaw has been Truman Lake Bikes. The small bike shop has tripled its sales since it opened three years ago. And the area has expanded its biking trails and is now recognized as a mountain biking destination.

The county also passed a tourism tax that has helped push tourism and economic development in the area. Tourism dollars were stagnant before the tax, which is charged on vacation rentals such as hotels and cabins, Jensen says. Tourism expenditures have increased $1.5 million in the past year, and sales tax revenue for the city has consistently increased. According to the Benton County Clerk’s Office, 2 percent of the tourism tax dollars are allocated to the county and the rest goes toward tourism development, which includes expanding recreational areas and improving Warsaw’s downtown.