An economic impact study released Tuesday shows that the Brazos County Expo generated more than $5 million in sales within the county -- positive news for a venue that is slowly working its way toward being in the black.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension economist Rebekka Dudensing presented the findings to the Commissioners Court at its Tuesday meeting. The study, which surveyed 39 events in 2013, was the first complete assessment of the complex's economic impact and the second of three reports commissioned by the county for $15,900. The first report, presented in 2012, chronicled how much money specific events generated. Tuesday's report used a larger sample size to estimate the 2012-2013 fiscal year's gross sales, gross domestic product and job creation generated by the Expo.
Dudensing said $5.1 million in gross sales were generated in the county because of events held at the Expo, $3.3 million of which came from attendees to various events. She said the contribution to the county's GDP was $2.1 million. The amount of economic activity was enough to generate the creation of 66.5 jobs within Brazos County, she said.
The number of events at the complex rose from 140 in 2012 to 155 in 2013, spread across 262 and 306 booked days comparatively. The number of people who attended events was up approximately 17 percent, Dudensing said.
"Spending was up in 2013; it was a much better year partly due to the fact people are spending more and partly due to the types of events at the Expo Center," she said. "They're bringing in bigger events, which are attracting people who are higher spending from further out and maybe staying longer. It's a combination of things."
Expo director Tom Quarles said the figures are great for the center, which opened in 2007.
"The numbers were probably more in line or even greater than what I anticipated," Quarles said of the economic impact.
Still, the Expo continues to spend more money than it takes in. Over the same time period that the Expo generated the estimated $5.1 million in sales, it took in $890,000 in revenue and the county spent $1,078,000 on the center. The Expo was paid for by an $18.5 million bond issue approved by voters in 2000.
Before the commissioners called for the economic study, the loss of money by the Expo was publicly questioned. District Judge J.D. Langley sent an email to the commissioners in March 2012 that analyzed the 2011 fiscal year. Langley said the county lost more than $1 million and called the findings "alarming."
Quarles maintains the point of the center is not simply to make money, but attract visitors, and their tax dollars, to Brazos County.
"The reason that the Expo was built is to create a significant long-term economic impact to Bryan-College Station and Brazos County," Quarles said.