The event. As far as regional attractions go, they are great multipliers for your local economy, especially for your service and retailers. So unless you already have a festival, agricultural fair or convention of Airstreams every year, it will involve creating a regular migration to your community through Tournament Development.
Tournament development in rural areas is difficult, as the capacity to fund and attract weekenders is difficult to get started . It takes political will, a development office willing to take a risk and a concept that works with the local socioeconomic culture to bring it all together. But if all of these issues line up in a positive way, the economic results are large for small towns and well worth that risk.
Problem: Not enough weekender traffic to a regional centre that you represent. The retail and service providers would like more tourists in town. However, there is not a great attraction already in place, or maybe the one in place is dwindling in its effectiveness in growing the economy.
Solution: Collaborate with few different organizations and throw a world-class event that has a loyal following/membership, and mend a few old grievances between community organizations along the way.
When looking at throwing an event, it is imperative that there will be people to show up, of course, but also as a development official, you need to attract people to town for the weekend. The real benefit to the local economy is participants not just spectators.
What was the culturally and socioeconomically appropriate event that will attract hundreds of weekenders? The answer involved partnering with the Portage Exhibition (an annual summer agricultural expo and midway) and the Portage Regional Recreation Authority (Hockey Arena) and installing 450 or so meters of dirt on a hockey rink.
I could tell a few tales of logistics with cattle, cowboys and pancake breakfasts and three long days of work as an economic developer managing staff, both permanent and temporary, but let us just look at the EC Dev related stats, or results:
- 197 contestants came to town with local spending at approximately $33,000 spent in local shops and hotels over the weekend. This would include not only the contestants spending, but the spectators as well.
- Approximately 2,000 people attended over the course of the weekend, all of whom had an excellent time.
So it was a big win for the private sector; and it was a quantitative success for my economic development office as well.
A qualitative one? Well…..
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