DNC to generate $6 million locally

Cabarrus County in September will host hundreds of delegates from nine states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia for the Democratic National Convention.

The 11 delegations - the others are Alaska, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Texas and West Virginia - will be clustered at various hotels near Bruton Smith Boulevard at Exit 49 of Interstate 85.

Hotel assignments for the 6,000 delegates expected at the 2012 DNC were announced earlier this month.

Together, the delegations are expected to generate about $6 million for the Cabarrus area, according to the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The bureau estimates the economic impact based on the number of hotel rooms booked and the average cost of those rooms during the four-day convention.

John Mills, 43, executive vice president with CVB and a 12-year Concord resident, said the influx of visitors could boost business for dry cleaners, event planners, restaurants, hotels, retail and other area attractions.

"The economic impact is very powerful," said Mills. "Those are conservative numbers, but we want to put out a number we are comfortable with."

In Cabarrus in 2010, tourism had an economic impact valued at $312 million, a 6.6 percent increase from 2009, said Mills. That money saved the average household $365 in county taxes.

Tourism also helps create jobs. Thirty percent more hotel rooms were built in 2009 than in 2008. And considering hotel occupancy rates, the area saw growth even during the downturn of the economy, said Mills.

Demand for total hotel rooms increased 8.4 percent in 2011 compared to 2010.

The area has seen steady growth over the last three years, but this event will put Cabarrus in the national spotlight and open new eyes to our area, said Mills.

"It's huge," he said. "Obviously, we host a lot of big events, and we have lots of visitors, but just from all the national attention this event is going to bring, it's going to reach beyond the event itself. And after the event, there'll be a lot of eyes continuing to focus on our area."

Donna Carpenter, president and chief executive officer of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she was thrilled when she heard about all the new guests.

"The Democratic National Convention will have significant economic impact and will offer us the opportunity to showcase Cabarrus County as a true visitor destination," she said. "I feel confident that our top-notch hotels and our Southern hospitality will provide them with an experience that will leave them wanting to come back for more. This is an exciting time for Cabarrus County and the Charlotte region."

Cabarrus County is home to two of the region's most visited attractions: Charlotte Motor Speedway and Concord Mills mall. It's also relatively close to uptown Charlotte and has a variety of lodging, dining and other attractions.

Historic downtown Concord, the North Carolina Research Campus and Reed Gold Mine also are known to bring in tourist traffic.

Cabarrus hotels will get to showcase their properties on the national and world stage.

"We have been working extremely hard over the last several months, and.... we are very pleased to see all of our efforts come to fruition," said Vinay Patel, senior vice president of operations and sales for SREE Hotels. "As a community and a region, the ... convention is a phenomenal opportunity to showcase what we are and who we are as a destination."

SREE's Concord hotels include Spring Hill Suites, Residence Inn and Courtyard by Marriott.

The county's two largest hotels are Great Wolf Lodge, with 402 rooms, and the Embassy Suites Charlotte-Concord Golf Resort and Spa, with 308.

General mangers of those hotels are confident in their accommodation offerings.

"Our resort is a great fit for the Texas and Montana delegations, in particular, and we have a great opportunity to make them feel at home," said Phillip Cunningham, general manager of Great Wolf Lodge.

The Embassy Suites, in conjunction with the Courtyard by Marriott Concord and the Residence Inn Concord, will host about 500 delegates from Michigan, Maryland and Rhode Island, said Terry Crawford, general manager of hotel, which also contains the Concord Convention Center.

"We are very pleased that the Democratic National Convention will impact not only hotels in Mecklenburg County but also hotels in surrounding areas," said Doug Stafford, partner in Griffin Stafford Hospitality.

The delegation accommodation list includes two of Griffin Stafford's Concord properties: Hilton Garden Inn and Wingate by Wyndam.