A small town is moving into Forest City, Iowa, later this month — and it brings about $1.8 million in an economic impact.
The Winnebago Itasca Travelers (WIT) Grand National Rally will be in the city from July 18-23 this year on the rally grounds just off U.S. Highway 69 and near Winnebago Industries Inc.
About 1,200 motorhomes were registered for the event as of late last week, Doug Formanek, the general manager of the WIT club, told the Britt News Tribune.
“We anticipate, and hope for, 1,300 units,” Formanek said.
While Winnebago Industries works hard to plan a variety of activities to keep participants busy on the days of the rally, the participants arrive early in Forest City and check out local businesses and activities, Formanek said.
“People like Forest City,” Formanek said.
In fact, many participants come to Forest City a week or two before the rally starts, Formanek said.
Beth Bilyeu of Forest City Economic Development said the estimated the direct economic impact of the 2009 WIT Rally was about $1.8 million. Bilyeu caculates from July 1 — when the first units arrive in town — until July 17, when the rally started in 2009. The numbers of people and units in Forest City increased with each day between July 1 and July 17.
The indirect economic impact was more, at about a total of $3.2 million.
Bileyu takes that $1.8 million and rolls it over once in the Forest City area at 80% of each dollar spent.
“Many of our businesses are locally owned,” Bileyu said. That means dollars spent by WIT participants are spent again in the Forest City area, she said.
When Bileyu estimates the economic impact of the WIT rally to the Forest City area, she assumes two people per motorhome unit.
The amount per person spent each day in the area is $65, Bileyu said.
“It might be higher one day and lower on other days but the average is $65 per day,” Bileyu said.
“WIT participants spend money at the grocer stores, the gas stations, they are dining out,” said Forest City Chamber of Commerce Director Kathy Rollefson said.
Bileyu said it costs about $400 to fill the gas tank of a motorhome. Most will fill their tanks at least once, she said.
It’s not just Forest City businesses that benefit, Rollefson and Bileyu said.
Restaurant and other businesses in Winnebago County also get dollars spent by WIT participants, Bileyu and Rollefson said.
WIT participants also get their haircut or have appointments with dentists or other services in town, Rollefson said.
“The service industry also reaps benefits from the rally,” Rollefson said.
WIT participant spending resulted in about $32,000 in local option sales tax revenue in 2009, Bileyu said.
The rally also brings vendors, many of which stay in local hotels and also spend some money in the Forest City area, Rollefson said.
Winnebago Industries estimates that 2.5 people are each motorhome unit, said Kelli Harms, a company public relations specialist.
“That’s doubling the size of Forest City,” Harms said.
Lots of RVs, lots of people and lots of money.