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Festivals can bring big money to cities

A long-standing and well-attended festival in Ocean Springs gave Mississippi State University researchers an opportunity to calculate the value of these fun events to the state’s economy.

A long-standing and well-attended festival in Ocean Springs gave Mississippi State University researchers an opportunity to calculate the value of these fun events to the state’s economy.

The John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development and the Extension Service at Mississippi State University completed two economic impact studies of the Peter Anderson Arts and Crafts Festival. This annual festival draws more than 100,000 people to the community of 18,000 residents and has a $13 million impact on the local economy.

Al Myles, MSU Extension Service community and economic development specialist in the Department of Agricultural Economics, and Rachael Carter, project manager with the Stennis Institute, evaluated the economic impact of this festival over two years to calculate its positive influences on the local economy.

“In many communities, festivals and special events are vital to the bottom line of many businesses and the local economy,” Myles said. “The economies of these towns depend on the revenue, employment and income that these events might bring.”

Festival organizers asked Carter and Myles to measure the economic impact and to help evaluate consumer support of the Peter Anderson Arts and Crafts Festival, an established, juried art festival held in Ocean Springs for 32 years. Organizers were specifically interested in finding out who attended the festival, how much money nonlocal attendees spent at the event and its overall economic impact.

“Festivals and special events are growing forms of tourism, especially in rural areas struggling to revitalize local economies,” Myles said. “Festivals and events are attractions that have drawing power and staying power. This means they not only bring in new visitors, but they help keep visitors in the area longer.”

Festivals allow even the smallest communities to capitalize on what makes them unique, Carter said.

The first study was conducted by the MSU Extension Service and the second by the Stennis Institute.

“The first study looked at what dollars were being brought in,” Carter said. “We did the follow-up study because the first study generated excitement, got local buy-in and helped land influential sponsors. The goal of the second study was to improve advertising as well as increase local support for the event so that more people would participate.”

While the study was specifically useful to Ocean Springs, it is generally useful to other Mississippi communities seeking to host a new festival or expand an existing one.

“Once the economic impact of an event has been calculated, the potential use of this information is almost endless,” Myles said. “Figures can be used with policy makers to justify continued support for tourism in the area. The information on expenditures by sectors could be used to show the direct impact on the local economy resulting from a specific event.

“These results also could be used to illustrate the benefits of the event to local industry and as a tool for gaining local sponsorship.”

According to the Tourism Division of the Mississippi Development Authority, or MDA, travel and tourism rank number fivein overall private statewide employment. For the fiscal year ending June 2011, travel and tourism visitors spent $5.97 billion in the state.

Every $1.3 million spent travelling through Mississippi in 2011 sustained 18 direct jobs and seven indirect and induced jobs,according to MDA information.

Another way of looking at the economic value of visitors is that they spend an average of $498 million per month or $16.4 million per day in the state. Cities and counties collected $149.2 million in tax revenues or fees from these visitors.

While visitors are important sources of income and tax revenue, some festivals are organized simply to add quality of lifeand enjoyment to a community.

“Not all festivals are trying to bring in people. Not all aretourism events,” Carter said.

Those coordinating events that are trying to generate economic impact should conduct an evaluation to determineif their goals are being met.

“An evaluation can help communities determine if the event is accomplishing its goals, and if not, the evaluation can indicate changes that could be made to improve the outcomes of the events,” Carter said.

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