One of the Chamber of Commerce’s core principles is creating a positive business climate. Late last year, a few people helping organize the Idaho State High School Cross Country Championship contacted the Portneuf Health Trust and officials at Bannock County. They were hopeful that we could bring this 2016 championship to Pocatello. While they typically had not been charged for the venue for the event, their desire to hold it at the Portneuf Wellness Complex was high. Bannock County made some small adjustments and charged the group around $2000 for use of the world class complex. The group had suggested that there would be around 5,000 people attending and that the venue would be ideal. Using a common economic multiplier, 5,000 people sleeping in hotels, eating meals, and shopping could equal as high as a $2.5 million economic benefit to our community. Admittedly, at least in my thoughts, those projections might be high. My gut reaction is that it might be close to a $1 million economic benefit.
Let’s fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I attended the event, and there were every bit of 5,000 people at the complex watching the championship. As I walked through the crowds, people were blown away at the complex, and commented how pleased with the quality of the facility and the ability to use the restrooms (my understanding is that these races are often run on golf courses leaving much to be desired for parking, bathrooms, viewing etc.). People commented on how great watching and experiencing the championship was at this facility and how nice their trip and experience had been to Pocatello.
My point is that the Portneuf Wellness Complex and other facilities in our community are great economic engines to our community. If we want to keep these events that mean so much, we must ask ourselves about our commitment. In other communities, they charge very little or anything at all, and I don’t believe we should price ourselves out of the market. Said another way, would we trade $2,000 income to the county, for a $1 million in business revenues? Remember those revenues trickle down into income for our municipalities and county as well. While I certainly know what makes more sense, this isn’t a question for me or the Chamber to answer, but rather our whole community.