Frederik Meijer Gardens economic impact study reveals "network effect"

May 1, 2017

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park annually generates more than $75 million in Kent County. WGVU breaks down the economic impact study with one of its authors from Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business.

“They have a draw that’s starting to grow wider.” Grand Valley economics professor Dr. Paul Isely co-authored the Meijer Gardens economic impact study with Christian Glupker. With a venue drawing roughly 445,000 visitors annually, the fundamental result is a lot of new dollars into Kent County. But it’s where those dollars are coming from that is most telling of its success and impacts on the community. “So, from the ability to draw people, specifically for this venue from places like California, Meijer Gardens is at some level unique. If you look at its effect per person, for those people coming from outside the area, the effect is very similar to what we see with the zoo and the museum downtown.”

The study finds “Visitors from outside the county who directly spend $19.6 million at businesses around Kent County annually.”

“If we look at what people spend when they go to different types of venues, very much there are a lot of things that look alike. So the amount that’s spent per person tends to be about the same where the power of Meijer Gardens is the sheer number of people that they have come and the fact that a large chunk of them, 86% of them, are coming from outside of Kent County. So it’s drawing in a lot of additional dollars and really makes a lot of that impact money that wouldn’t exist without the existence of the park.”

The researchers discovered “Nonresidents spent an average $129 per group outside the venue during their visit to Meijer Gardens while in Kent County. That’s $22.7 million.

Dr. Isely discovered there was more to the data, that there’s a venue synergy in Grand Rapids and that tourists and travelers are taking advantage of what the area has to offer. “One of the bigger effects here are what we call the network effects. So what we’re starting to see in Grand Rapids is that there are a series of reasons to come here. Whether it be the convention center, whether it be Meijer Gardens, whether it be ArtPrize, or the zoo, the museum, beer, and so what we’re starting to see is within the data we’re starting to see more people coming for a larger period of time and noting that they’re going to more than one thing. The study wasn’t designed to look at that, but certainly the comments written into the surveys are starting to suggest that Grand Rapids has some pull as a location with multiple things to do that can stretch across multiple days.”

How does that support the local business community retaining and attracting talent?

“That plays very well because we have some big things that are good anchors like Meijer Gardens that draw a lot of people, have a lot of interest across a large segment of people. But now you have something for the family, you have something for mom and dad, you have something for just the kids as you go across the city and that results in increased spending and greater tourism dollars.”

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park also supports 804 county jobs.

Patrick Center, WGVU News.