To the editor:

A few weeks ago columnist Matthew Tully wrote a column in The Indianapolis Star criticizing Indiana Tourism's new slogan "Honest to Goodness," and in making his case he said "the reality is that the Indianapolis region is the state's main tourist draw" and that tourists are "not looking for a hokier version of Cincinnati."

Whatever anyone thinks about the new slogan isn't really important, but I am a little troubled about any consideration that the Indiana Office of Tourism Development focus its efforts more toward the Indianapolis region.

There's so much more to see in Indiana, particularly in southeastern Indiana where scenic beauty from the hills and the river provide natural beauty to both Switzerland and Jefferson counties.

And Madison has been particularly fortunate with blocks of beautiful historical buildings.

I was born in Madison and grew up in Madison, and even though I now have a job that causes me to live in Indianapolis I still call Madison home. And I've always known that downtown Madison is very special and unique.

Still, in a sense, we shouldn't ignore Mr. Tully's words. They may seem offensive to residents of small communities throughout Indiana, but the truth is that many small communities are struggling while big cities are thriving.

People may love their small towns, but they go where there are jobs and opportunity.

Historic downtown gives Madison an advantage that many small cities and towns do not have. However, if Madison doesn't strive to preserve what it has, it will gradually lose that attraction that helps give Madison a vibrant downtown.

Preserving downtown Madison is a big job. There are lots of old buildings that continue to age. And it's important the city of Madison put forth a strong effort to help preserve them.

I commend Laura Hodges for her leadership in support of the proposed program called PACE, Preservation and Community Enhancement. By providing assistance to encourage downtowners to preserve their buildings, the city of Madison will be making a solid effort toward Madison's economy.

PACE is economic development money for Madison that is well-spent in not only promoting tourism, but also making it place where people want to live and businesses will want to locate.

Honestly, as I've come home to Madison recently, I've felt a bit worried about downtown. There seem to be fewer restorations in recent years than I remembered a couple of decades ago. I think PACE should provide encouragement to get them rolling again.

Preserving downtown is essential to a vibrant, healthy Madison, and that benefits all of the taxpayers of not just Madison, but Jefferson County. That's tax money well spent.

Bob Demaree