For nearly six years, there have been whispers and chatter about whether our region needs a convention center. There have, at the same time, been ongoing discussions about the potential need for a performing arts center.
Within these conversations, I see two pressing questions:
- If we can currently only tackle one of these tasks, which should it be?
- Which has the larger potential economic impact for our region?
Several years ago, the Chamber’s board of directors took a position to unanimously support the need for a convention center. The action stopped short of recommending a location, but now is the time to elevate this discussion to the public.
Our view is that, of the two alternatives, a convention center will undoubtedly provide the largest economic impact. A convention center will be a boon to airports, hotels, bars and restaurants, and shopping throughout the region.
While we recognize that convention centers of this type do not always generate a positive cash flow, the potentially significant economic impact to our region far outweighs that concern. In our view, it’s high time to elevate the whispers to a community-level conversation. And while several studies have been completed on the matter, we feel those studies lack many variables that should be considered as we weigh such a big decision for our community.
Ultimately, there are really two main variables that will need to be a part of this conversation:
1) Cost is, of course, at the top of the list of considerations. We fully endorse a public discussion of the options and lean toward a serious discussion of what a public-private partnership could look like. The goal is to have as little impact on taxpayers as possible, and preliminary discussions suggest there is strong interest from the private sector to participate in this project.
2) Location must also be considered, keeping in mind that a regional approach is more important than “picking” one city over another.
A Convention Center: In Summary
- A potential project should be discussed in public by the business community rather than dictated by city officials.
- The significant impact on the business community is wide-ranging, and the potential impact on our community is great.
- The Chamber would like to convene a task force to do a deep dive into feasibility, location, cost, and other variables, with a strong concentration on a public-private partnership.
FMWF Chamber of Commerce