Startling Economics To Be Unveiled

January 21, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — When members of the Convention and Arena Authority meet this week they will learn that just two of the five consumer shows held in DeVos Place last winter had a combined local economic impact of $50.6 million.

To fully understand the value of that figure for the local economy, 10 noteworthy conventions booked at DeVos Place this year have been projected to deliver a $4.8 million boost to local coffers. The largest one on the books, coming in August, will be worth $1.3 million locally.

Showspan Inc., led by president John Loeks, produces the five shows that run during the first quarter of the calendar year, and the company commissioned Kiekover Marketing of Grand Rapids to evaluate the financial importance its 2004 Boat Show and Home & Garden Show had for the county.

Loeks told the Business Journal last week that Showspan went ahead with the economic impact study because the firm wanted to show how valuable the company’s productions are to the local economy, and to fulfill what he called the responsibility his firm has to those exhibitors that drive the shows and bring crowds to DeVos Place.

“We want the business community, especially, to understand the business meaning of these shows,” said Loeks, who plans to present the study’s findings to CAA members on Wednesday.

Loeks also felt now was a good time to reveal the results, which have been available since October, with the Showspan-produced Michigan International Auto Show opening Thursday in DeVos Place.

“We thought we had a very good story to tell and we thought the timing of the story was good now because it would put into context the meaning of an auto show, a boat show, a home and garden show, our sports show and our golf show, all of which will come in rapid succession over the next few months,” he said.

The boat and home shows were selected for the study because both were a bit easier to measure than, say, the auto show, which has restrictions on revealing sales figures. Showspan wanted to include all the shows in the report, but the cost to do that was too expensive.

Attendees and vendors at both shows were surveyed. Money spent on food, parking, lodging, transportation, and purchases at the shows were included in the report.

The results revealed last year’s Boat Show had an economic impact of just under $27 million, with roughly $17 million of that total being direct. The Home & Garden Show resulted in nearly $24 million being spent within the county, with a direct impact of $15.6 million.

Over 26,000 consumers attended the boat show, while 39,700 went to the home show.

But quite possibly the 2004 figures that the CAA may find most interesting are those that relate directly to DeVos Place. The Showspan shows were credited last year with providing the building with two of its three profitable months during its first full year of operation.

DeVos Place had surpluses of $164,254 in February and $71,909 in March, months when Showspan leased the center’s exhibit space for its shows. But overall, from December 2003 through November 2004, the building lost $1.09 million.

As for his reaction to the results, Loeks said he was amazed to learn that two of his shows were worth over $50 million to the economy last year.

“Frankly, it exceeded what we expected,” he said. “In fact, it caused us concern because when we saw the results and compared it to the reported economic impact of conventions we realized that people are going to take a deep breath when they realize what we’re saying here. We think all of these shows have tremendous economic impact.”    

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