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Bill Thomas represents Atlanta at World Monuments Fund event

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[December 02, 2013]  ATLANTA Two central Illinois communities, Atlanta and Pontiac, helped contribute to the goals of a Route 66 strategic round table convened by the World Monuments Fund on Nov. 20-21 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif. Bill Thomas, treasurer of the Atlanta Betterment Fund, attended the event along with Pontiac Mayor Bob Russell and Ellie Alexander, director of tourism in Pontiac. They were among approximately 100 people representing government, business, tourism and historic preservation.

Thomas presented on a panel dealing with "Making the Case: Economic Impacts of Preservation and Heritage Tourism Along Rt. 66." Russell presented during a panel discussion focused on "Community Investment: Success Stories from the Road," and Alexander was part of a panel presentation on "The Road More Traveled: Enhancing the Tourism Potential of Route 66."

Among the great challenges of preserving the historic corridor of Route 66 are its length and its diversity of stakeholders. Over the past several years, Pontiac and Atlanta have addressed some of these challenges and effectively demonstrated the ability to leverage the economic development potential of Route 66. The Route 66 strategic meeting presented the opportunity for these two central Illinois communities to share their success stories and work with other "Mother Road" stakeholders to discuss and devise new ways to effectively capitalize on the economic benefits of and development opportunities along Route 66.

For more details regarding the Route 66 strategic round-table event, see the World Monuments Fund news release below.

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World Monuments Fund convenes strategic round-table event to discuss heritage tourism and preservation along historic Route 66

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Following the dramatic analysis and statistics revealed through the Route 66 Economic Impact Study of 2012, the World Monuments Fund convened a strategic round-table event to explore the sustainability of the highway as a cultural and recreational venue and an economic engine for the eight states the route passes through. The event, titled "The Road Ahead," was on Nov. 20 and 21 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif., close to Cars Land, a Disney venture inspired by Route 66.

The event was organized by the World Monuments Fund with the support of American Express and was arranged as a series of panel discussions drawing more than 100 people representing government, business, tourism and preservation.

Amir Eylon, vice president of partnership and development services for Brand USA, a public-private organization established to promote international travel to the United States, stated: "As the destination marketing origination for the United States, Brand USA has the opportunity to promote both our country's most recognizable icons and the hidden gems, like Route 66. As visitors explore Route 66, they go beyond the gateways and connect along a unique set of authentic experiences that they can only get here."

Route 66, also known as the Mother Road, runs from Chicago to Santa Monica and is America's most celebrated automobile highway and a famous symbol of 20th-century American culture and history. The construction of the interstate highways in the middle of the 20th century bypassed many communities along Route 66, and subsequently numerous towns and cities along the route have faced economic hardship. The plight of these communities was the basis for the 2006 Disney/Pixar film "Cars."

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Economic impact study

"The Road Ahead" event followed the publication of an economic impact study completed in 2012 that shed light on the importance of heritage tourism and historic preservation along Route 66 as a contributor to local, state and national economies.

The study, undertaken by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in collaboration with the U.S. National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and the World Monuments Fund, with the support of American Express, outlines the benefits of heritage preservation for the communities.

Among the many noteworthy findings of the study are that tourists spend $38 million per year in communities along Route 66; preservation through revitalization programs and museums adds some $94 million in annual investments; some 2,400 jobs are created each year; and economic activities directly related to the route add some $127 million annually to the GDP.

Tourism is often the most important or only economic engine for many of the towns along the route, and Route 66-themed motels, restaurants and shops anchor the downtowns of many small communities. The preservation of the highway and the revitalization of communities along it are thus inextricably linked. Developing new opportunities for communities along the route through partnerships and preservation activities is key to generating jobs and increasing economic growth.

The strategic round-table event highlighted stories of revitalization along the road and the broad international and national interest in traveling Route 66. Capitalizing on these successes and opportunities means effectively using historic preservation as a tool for sustainable development, providing positive economic, social and environmental benefits to the 5.5 million people who live along the Mother Road.

The iconic landscape and idiosyncratic architecture of Route 66 as well as those dedicated to its stewardship provide a unique backdrop for experiencing the most fundamental of American ideals: freedom, individuality and opportunity.

As a once-thriving corridor of commerce and creativity, the Mother Road's past serves as a strong foundation for a revitalized future, marrying old and new to continue to tell the many stories of America's main street.

[Text from file received from Bill Thomas and news release from the World Monuments Fund]

World Monuments Fund is the leading independent organization devoted to saving the world's treasured places. For nearly 50 years, working in 100 countries, its skilled experts have applied proven and effective techniques to the preservation of important architectural and cultural heritage sites around the globe. Through partnerships with local communities, funders and governments, WMF seeks to inspire an enduring commitment to stewardship for future generations. Headquartered in New York City, the organization has offices and affiliates worldwide. For more information, visit www.wmf.org, https://twitter.com/worldmonuments and https://www.facebook.com/worldmonuments.

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