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Greenbrier Classic's economic impact could be largest yet

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - This year's Greenbrier Classic has the potential to be the biggest in the tournament's four-year history.

While last year's featured the world's most prominent golfer, Tiger Woods, the event itself was overcast by the devastating derecho that swept through the state the Friday before tournament week began.

Should the weather cooperate this year, the state's economy could reap millions from the event.

After the inaugural event in 2010, Greenbrier officials enlisted GSP Consulting Corp. to evaluate the tournament's economic impact.

The company gauged the impact on the state and the national economy.

The group evaluated tournament spending, direct and indirect employment and tax revenue.

Analysts found the tournament had a total economic impact of $111 million nationally. The total impact for the state was $42 million.

The event, and firms providing services for it, employed 1,009 people.

That first Greenbrier Classic had a total of 178,500 visitors during the seven-day event. Spectators traveled from 34 states, with the majority from Virginia and West Virginia.

Attendees spent about $21 million locally on the tournament, including $5.4 million on lodging, $4.8 million on shopping, $4.2 million on food, $2.7 million on tickets and $2.5 million on transportation.

The concerts associated with that tournament logged another $6.1 million.

GSP said state coffers benefited to the tune of about $2.5 million in additional tax revenue from that spending.

The combined $27 million in spending on the concerts and tournament made up about 15 percent of Greenbrier County's total tourism for 2010, according to a separate analysis from the state Division of Tourism.

The state's tourism report, prepared by Dean Runyan Associates, said Greenbrier County benefited from $181.7 million in direct tourism spending in 2010.

It estimated 1,990 Greenbrier County jobs were tied to tourism, about 10 percent of county workers, with combined wages totaling $79.2 million for the year.

The county's tourism industry generated $1.7 million in local tax revenues and another $13.9 million for the state.

If you look at it another way, Greenbrier County tourism generated about $15 million in tax relief for residents.

According to the study, without tourism, Greenbrier County residents would have had to pay an additional $816.65 per household in taxes to maintain the same level of public services throughout the year.

The state tourism office updates its economic impact studies every two years. Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Kara Dense said the state should release updated figures for 2011 and 2012 in the fall.

With the growing popularity of the Greenbrier Classic, Dense expects the overall tourism spending to climb to about $215 million - which would be about the same level the county saw before The Greenbrier's bankruptcy and the 2009 downturn in the national economy.


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