Convention Center Economics

April 24, 2006-Posted at 5:00 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR--Jonesboro taxpayers are asking themselves will a convention center be worth the investment?

"The economic impact is not money spent, it is money brought in from the outside," said Dr. Dan Marburger, economics professor at ASU.

Most of the business to the convention center would be luncheons from groups in Region 8. Events that would not have an economic impact on the area.

"If it is people who live there spending money, then it is like me taking money out of my left pocket putting it in my right pocket and saying I am richer," said Marburger.

The economic benefit comes in attracting people from outside of the area. Currently the ASU's Convocation Center averages two trade shows a year, a number that wouldn't have to go up significantly to pay off the city's $17 million dollar investment.

"In theory if we were able to attract 8 additional trade shows then it would pay itself off," said Marburger.

Strictly from an expenditure perspective, the city comes out on top if they agree to pay $17 million for a new convention center. In return, John Q. Hammons Group will come in and pay $34 million in construction costs.

"If John Q. Hammons thought we weren't going to attract trade shows, he would not be willing to absorb the losses on a convention center," said Marburger.

Dr. Marburger submitted his study on the economic impact of the convention center to the city, and while he said realistically the city could pay off it's investment in two years, the benefits might be hard for the taxpayers to see.

"But can I say that every tax payer will get personal benefit well that is difficult to say," said Marburger.

Marburger sees the obvious advantages, but doesn't always think the issue is black and white when it comes to voting for a tax increase on benefits that not everyone can see.

"Do I think this is going to pass?  I just had a conversation about the tax we tried to pass that was going directly into our school system, this is tangible benefits for your own children and people voted against it," said Marburger.

It's an issue that is now in the hands of the voters of Jonesboro.