BURY St Edmunds and Suffolk as a whole are stuck near the back of the field in the chase for Olympic gold, it was warned this week.
Decisions to invest in marketing the area need to be made now, with the possibility still of luring millions of pounds worth of tourism investment and thousands of jobs.
Action should have been taken a month ago, but it not too late to push Team Suffolk nearer to the front of the field, urges Tim Passmore, acting chief executive of Choose Suffolk.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Mr Passmore, who visualises a new marketing body called Visit Suffolk targeting countries such as China and the USA to sell the many attractions the county has.
“We are better placed than many of the Home Counties,” he said.
It has an abundance of places for short and longer-term stays, heritage, coast and country and opportunities for business investment.
Tourism income on the back of the Olympics could net another £500 million a year, on top of the £1.75 billion Suffolk is said to bring in.
And he suggested the creation of hundreds of new jobs would give younger people the incentives to keep away from the sort of troubles seen on the streets of many English cities recently.
“Tourism offers good career prospects and they are not all low-paid jobs as some people feel. It will give young people a purpose in life,” said Mr Passmore, who is also leader of Mid-Suffolk District Council.
He says to catch up, Visit Suffolk, which is led by private enterprise, must get backing from local authorities by September 1, and, ideally, even this week.
This would involve the county council and each district authority contributing to an initial fighting fund of some £50,000 to begin marketing Suffolk to targeted countries.