You may have heard that Metro, Portland Development Commission, City of Portland and Multnomah County are once again pursuing a hotel adjacent to the Oregon Convention Center (OCC). Some question the value that this hotel would bring to the area and if investing minimal public resources is a good use of public dollars. I would like to share what visitors coming to the Oregon Convention Center do for our local economy.
Convention centers, by design, are intended to serve as economic development tools for local communities. They are not intended to operate as stand-alone profit centers, rather, through modest up-front and ongoing public investment, paid mostly through taxes visitors pay, their mission is to support local businesses and traded sector industries. The Oregon Convention Center is no different: it was built as a proven means to bring visitors to the area, create and sustain jobs, generate direct and indirect spending, and increase tax revenue.
By all standards, OCC is achieving its mission. In 2011, we hosted over 570,000 visitors leading to $450 million in local, regional and statewide spending. This spending supported over 4,000 jobs and drew in $15 million in new tax dollars for important regional and state services. In addition, around $10 million in transient lodging and motor vehicle rental tax revenues supported OCC’s operations, covering the portion of operating costs, not covered by the venue’s operating revenues, to make OCC whole. To be clear about who pays to maintain OCC’s world-class status, it is primarily visitors, the majority of whom are from out-of-town, and customers.
A hotel adjacent to the center will only help us attract additional national conventions, which will translate to new and greater revenues, for the center and the community. All industries have been impacted by the recent recession, including the convention industry, but, like our economy, we do see things improving. In October, 2012, OCC had its best revenue month since it opened in 1990. We see positive signs that conventions are again on the rise. We need to gain our fair share. Portland is a great city. Our clients tell us they love the unique atmosphere, friendly people, diverse culture, and our wonderful food and beverage products. Transportation is easy but they also tell us we need a hotel adjacent to the center to be competitive with other cities that have one, two or more hotels within a stone’s throw of their centers. It is time for us to step up and make this happen.
The staff at OCC is very proud of this wonderful facility and what it produces for our community. We look forward to doing our part to make Portland an even more prosperous city in the years ahead.
Oregon Convention Center