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Study: Celebration a $2M boon to local economy

Posted: June 14, 2012 - 11:05pm
Merle Anderson of Masset, British Columbia, watches people visit her table at the Celebration 2012 Native Artist Market on June 8. Anderson had red and yellow cedar hats along with abalone buttons for sale.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Merle Anderson of Masset, British Columbia, watches people visit her table at the Celebration 2012 Native Artist Market on June 8. Anderson had red and yellow cedar hats along with abalone buttons for sale.

Visitors to Juneau spent $1.1 million during Celebration 2012 last week, bringing a sizable amount of new revenue to the city and local businesses, according to the results of a study released Thursday by Sealaska Heritage Institute.

The institute, which stages the event every two years, said the McDowell Group calculated the total economic impact of Celebration 2012 at $2 million. The 3,300 non-residents who bought tickets for the cultural festival, including Native dancers from outside Juneau, were responsible for more than half of that spending.

This is the first year Sealaska Heritage Institute commissioned a study to determine Celebration’s economic impact, according to Rosita Worl, its president. As such, there are no “hard numbers” from previous years to which to compare the spending generated by Celebration 2012.

“We knew that (Celebration) had an economic impact on the community, but we just didn’t know how much,” Worl said.

Celebration 2012 was a larger event than Celebration 2010, Worl said. This year’s incarnation of the festival boasted five more dance groups than in 2010, made use of more venues and saw the Native artists’ market relocated to downtown Juneau.

“We do know this Celebration was larger,” said Worl. “We knew we were getting a lot more people visiting the Native arts market.”

The McDowell Group calculated the $2 million figure by adding together the $1.1 million in spending by visitors; $300,000 in spending by the 2,200 Juneau residents who attended the festival, as well as Sealaska itself; and $600,000 generated by “additional economic activity by the community” it said resulted from the “multiplier effects” of the visitors’ spending.

“When money comes into an economy, it spins around a number of times, and then it leaves the economy,” said Bob Koenitzer, senior project manager at the McDowell Group. For example, Koenitzer said, if a visitor bought a ticket for the Mount Roberts Tramway, the money they brought in could end up being paid to Tramway workers, who could use it to buy food in Juneau, further impacting the local economy.

“Every $1,000 that comes into the community generates about another $500 in indirect economic activity,” Koenitzer added.

Worl said the results of the study bolster Sealaska Heritage Institute’s argument for why it should receive funds raised by the City and Borough of Juneau through the five-year special 1 percent sales tax. To help finance the construction of the planned Walter Soboleff Center downtown, it has asked for a $3 million chunk of the nearly $45 million the sales tax is expected to fetch in new revenues.

“In my mind, you know, we’re asking the city for $3 million from the tax, and I was able to report to them that we were able to generate $2 million in a four-day event,” Worl said.

Koenitzer said $2 million is at least a slightly conservative estimate for Celebration 2012’s total economic impact, as the study did not take into account non-residents’ spending on transportation to and from the city.

Because Juneau has no outside road access, the vast majority of visitors who did not arrive on cruise ships came via the Alaska Marine Highway System or on commercial flights into Juneau International Airport.

“Some of the money that they spent on that transportation will trickle down into the Juneau economy,” Koenitzer said. However, he added the study did not include that money because “without a detailed study of how the transportation agencies spend their money, you just don’t know how much would trickle down to Juneau.”

Worl said Sealaska Heritage Institute hopes to expand the festival further in future years, possibly by having it start a day earlier. She also said she expects the Native artists’ market to grow, and that she hopes to persuade patrons of the Santa Fe Indian Market, held annually in Santa Fe, N.M., to attend Celebration 2014.

“We have been doing a lot to market ourselves to the art community, people who love Indian art,” said Worl. “Our goal is to make Juneau the Northwest Coast art center.”

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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