The Value of City Events | Josh Bolinger
In Economics by Josh Bolinger | August 14, 2014

Josh Bolinger onThe Value of City Events

It was a sunny day in June when someone walked into the office and said, “I just saw Tony Hawk skateboarding down the sidewalk.” The X Games were in Austin Texas.

Attracting events is key to a city’s economic growth. I have a buddy who goes to a small town in Michigan every year for their cheeseburger festival, which goes to show that fun events, held annually, can bring people back again and again. Folks who can afford to travel can afford to buy T-shirts, and meals in good restaurants, and premium coffees. After a short time, they go home (hopefully to return). But most importantly, they leave their money behind. The city is just a little bit wealthier than it was before they came, and if it’s done right, everyone has a good time, too.

There’s an old west myth about the town where everyone struck gold, made their fortune, and moved away. All except the people who did the laundry, because they didn’t mine gold, they cleaned clothes for a living. But it was okay, because they all stayed there and got rich doing each others’ laundry.

Unfortunately, municipal economics doesn’t really work that way. You need economic activity to bring in money and create growth – of wealth, of property values, and most importantly, of a city’s sense of itself as a nice place to live, which helps keep people living where they are.

This is where events are key. Every town has its own character, of course, and Tombstone, Arizona probably isn’t going to be attracting a lot of skateboarding competitions. So towns need to seek out events that are consistent with their character, and also that are supported by their infrastructure and the static attractions that are already in place. Sports-related festivals are easier to pull off if you have a stadium, for example. Art festivals fit well in places with at least a few decent galleries, if not some nice museums. Film festivals need movie screens.

But whatever the character of a city, whatever it has to offer, if you want to make the most out of those assets and attract visitors and the growth they encourage, you need well-planned events that have some “wow” factor that will bring people in to visit, and will maybe bring local residents out to enjoy themselves, as well.

After all, doing a little bit of laundry never hurt anyone.

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