A golden goose

Published 3:23 am Wednesday, October 8, 2008

By Staff
Washington’s City Council acted wisely last week when it decided the East Carolina Wildfowl Guild will pay a flat fee of $2,500 for the use of city facilities and services to put on the 2009 East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival and North Carolina Decoy Carving Championships.
Councilman Archie Jennings also came up with a sound recommendation when he said that any other festival or show that becomes as successful when it comes to generating money for the city should receive the same kind of deal from the city.
David Gossett, the guild’s spokesman at the council’s meeting, presented a strong case for the guild. His message, essentially, was a familiar one: Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. In this case, according to Gossett, the goose is the East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival and North Carolina Decoy Carving Championships. The golden egg, according to Gossett, is the money the festival generates during its three-day run and the money the guild spends to bring the festival to Washington.
These days, that golden egg is in the neighborhood of $275,000 to $300,000, according to Gossett.
Gossett was armed with a 2006 study of the festival’s influence on the local economy as he spoke to the council. Citing the study, conducted for the Washington Tourism Development Authority, Gossett said the city, its merchants and others benefit greatly from the festival being held in Washington. Visitors to the 2006 festival had an economic impact of $162,240 on the local economy, according to the study.
The message from Gossett was clear: The festival’s economic impact has grown steadily since the study was conducted.
Give credit to the City Council. Its members and other city officials recognized the value of the annual festival, held during most merchants’ slowest sales time of the year.
As Gossett pointed out, the guild does more with the festival than just organize it. As part of putting on the festival, the guild distributed brochures about the annual event. For the upcoming 2009 festival, the guild spent $1,900 on brochures. Those brochures promote Washington as a destination for visitors, exhibitors and contest participants during the three-day festival.
The festival’s value to the city goes far beyond what revenues the city can make from fees it charges the guild for using city facilities and services to put on the festival. By charging the guild a flat $2,500 fee and subsidizing other costs associated with the guild putting on the festival, the city is making an investment. For the 2009 festival, that investment comes to about $1,900.
Even if the upcoming festival’s economic impact to the local economy comes in at the 2006 level of $162,000, the city is getting an excellent return on its investment.
Anything the city can do to encourage existing or new festivals to have similar economic impacts on the local economy it should do. Not only would the city benefit, but so would its business community.
If the East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival and North Carolina Decoy Carving Championships is a goose that is laying golden eggs for Washington, the city needs to find more such geese. The city should provide an environment that allows such birds of a feather to flock together.