FIRST PERSON | JIM HASTY, MARC MELKERSON

Road races, triathlons and other large competitive fitness events create an economic ripple in their communities. Runners and tech managers Jim Hasty and Marc Melkerson co-founded EventResponse.com to provide data on these events, and they explain how the numbers are collected, used and valued.

The secret sauce in our work is that participants in this type of event are passionate, proud of what they have done and feel like they can give something valuable back. Typically 2 to 5 percent of the participants in a large event will respond; we get 25 to 40 percent. Runners and other competitors are typically very observant and critical. For example, there are never enough portable toilets. Ever.

We were in Nashville, Tenn., for a half marathon several years ago and realized event organizers had a burning need for this feedback. That led to compiling economic-impact statements as an independent, unbiased third party. Some clients don’t like what we find, but our data often spurs conversations needed for their event’s viability.

An economic impact statement can make a big difference. Sponsors can know if their brand is doing something positive. Race organizers can pinpoint sponsors and marketing efforts. Civic leaders may advocate for police support for road closings and security, or for infrastructure repairs like roads and bridges. Local people may put up with traffic disruptions. Antagonists can turn into collaborators.

The economic-impact study also includes data gathered from participants, online research, and input from organizers (entry fees, setup and operation costs, etc.). Historical information helps further validate the data. A major element is economic multipliers.

When you spend a dollar at the grocery store, that dollar is then used by the store to buy other products. Maybe 50 cents of that dollar is spent in the local economy. The U.S. Department of Commerce studies how far the dollars go in certain areas and industries, and determine multipliers. These apply to money that would not otherwise be spent. So if you have a road race and draw 100,000 people who are going to spend ‘X” dollars that would not otherwise be spent there, you have economic impact.

The more people who attend the event, even if they are not participating, is critical. If a runner brings his family, they will spend a whole lot more because they probably will want to see the aquarium, zoo and other attractions in that area. Side events such as concerts and festivals increase economic impact.

During July 4 weekend in Atlanta, the increase in out-of-state license plates is one sign of the Peachtree’s significant economic impact.

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As told to Michelle Hiskey, for the AJC

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