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Study: Clay County Fair spurs economy

By Staff | Jul 19, 2014

“If you look at tax numbers, throw in what Clay County people are spending, and that money is not included in the study.” —Jeremy Parsons Clay County Fair manager“If you look at tax numbers, throw in what Clay County people are spending, and that money is not included in the study.” —Jeremy Parsons Clay County Fair manager

SPENCER – The economic impact of the Clay County Fair Association to Clay County adds up to $6.2 million, conservatively, according to a study completed this year.

The $6.2 million, the study said, includes new money spent in county communities by the Clay County Fair Association and by out-of-county residents.

The study showed the fair association contributes $1.6 million in wage earnings that support more than 770 full-time, part-time, seasonal and fair-time jobs.

An estimated $87,500 is generated by non-local participants in the fair for state, local option sales taxes and local lodging taxes.

“If you look at tax numbers,” said Jeremy Persons, secretary-manager of the Clay County Fair, “throw in what Clay County people are spending, and that money is not included in the study.”

Parsons said he wanted a study that was easily defended, including funds from out-of-county participants only.

He said a Minnesota-based marketing firm was hired to compile the statistics, which included the 2013 operations of the Clay County Fair Association.

Those components included the Clay County Fair, activities at the Clay County Regional Events Center and the speedway, all located on the fairgrounds.

The analysis was a study of new money spent in Clay County by the fair association and by non-Clay County residents as a result of activities on the fairgrounds.

Parsons said no one from Clay County was surveyed since they are residents and the assumption was that they would spend money in Clay County anyway.

An example of those surveyed would include someone who came from out of town to sell their products in one of the exhibit buildings at the fair. Those who came to the fair and camped and shopped around town, while they were there were not included in the study.

Parsons said the survey reached several thousand fair participants, including vendors and livestock exhibitors, along with non-fair participants – those who attended concerts and organized livestock shows.

Parsons said Gold Star Amusements spent $28,000 in 10 days in Clay County last year on gas, tires, supplies and local payroll.

Last year, out-of-county livestock exhibitors spent $174,000 in Clay County. Non-local commercial vendors spent $676,000 in Clay County, and non-local food vendors spent $186,000 in Clay County.

Parsons said Clay County hotels made $240,000 just from out-of-county vendors, and that non-local food concessionaires spent $63,000 on payroll, in the hiring of local workers during the nine-day run of the fair.

Non-fair events go on all year, Parsons said, but the marketing firm looked specifically at concerts, the Northwest Iowa Home Show, Ag Outlook, the MEABA Horse Show, the summer racing series, Old Iron Company Car Show and the summer swine show.

The direct impact from those events he said, was $195,000, conservatively, and included out-of-county money only.

He said the fair operates on a $3.5 million annual budget. Of that money in 2013, $1.5 million was spent in Clay County on utilities, advertising and services to fairground buildings.

“That’s money spent only in Clay County,” Parsons said. “By the time you go through all the multipliers of that, the economic impact is right around $4 million, off of that $1.5 million in direct expenditures.”

Other numbers include:

A). An estimated 385,000 people came through the fairgrounds in 2013 for the fair, events at the convention center and at the speedway.

B). The fairground’s 260-acre tract is the property of the Clay County Fair Association, a private 501-C5 organization, established in 1917. The first Clay County Fair was held in 1918.

C). The association members number an estimated 800 members.

  • The Clay County Fair is among the largest fairs in the U.S. and is the second largest fair in Iowa, behind the Iowa State Fair.

D). It’s the largest tourism event in the state, with annual attendance of more than 300,000.

E). The Clay County Fair is home to the largest farm machinery and ag equipment show of any fair in the U.S., with 35 acres dedicated to agriculture.

F). The Clay County Regional Events Center, constructed 10 years ago, was a combined effort of the city and county using local option sales tax dollars.

It’s owned by the fair association and is assisted by city and county funds.

G). The speedway was remodeled in 2007 and hosts many World of Outlaws sprint car events and regular summer IMCA racing series.

H). The fair association has 14 full-time employees and hires more than 500 part-time, seasonal and fair-time employees.

I). The fairgrounds hosts more than 100 community and civic events each year, and is utilized for unlimited educational opportunities during the fair and all year long.

J). Non-profit organizations raised $509,733 in nine days of the Clay County Fair through food and beverage concessions, games and shuttle services to support their causes.

“Without the fair serving as a platform,” Parsons said, “that kind of money is not going to be raised.

“We want to be a good community partner, and we understand that we have a big responsibility as one of the largest events in Iowa, let alone in Northwest Iowa. We want to be a good steward of that responsibility.”

Parsons said a $6.2 million economic impact is a major number for a local economy, especially when that number is conservative.

“As manager of the fair, we’re more than just putting on a fun fair – we’re trying to bring money into the community.

“So we have to do our job to put on a good fair and continue to improve the facility so we can continue to bring that money into our county.”

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