Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Zoo's economic impact charted

A recent look at the Toledo Zoo showed that the 104-year-old institution brings millions of dollars into the local community each year, according to an economic impact study released yesterday.

Zoo officials lauded the study, which cost $15,063 and was completed over a six-month period by Bowling Green State University's Center for Policy Analysis and Public Service. The study concluded that over five years - 1998 to 2002 - the zoo impacted the local community to the tune of about $70 million a year - or about $348 million over the five years.

Bill Dennler, the zoo's executive director, said the 35-page study confirmed what zoo officials have believed for some time. "Most people think of the zoo as a local asset," he said. "Now we can say without any question that the zoo has an impact on the region as well."

The zoo attracts about 1 million visitors each year, the study said, and earns in excess of $2.5 million in gate receipts alone. But that is only one of the zoo's many revenue sources. Others include about $2.7 million in memberships, $3.5 million or so from gift shop and concession sales, and $10.8 million a year in tax levies.

The zoo's capital improvement levy, which raises $5.3 million a year, will expire in 2005 when it likely will be back before voters, zoo officials said.

But it is the money spent by the zoo, its employees, and its visitors that factor into the total economic impact the institution has on the community. Although some assumptions are made when calculating economic impact - for example, how much money is spent per day by visitors to the zoo staying in the Toledo area overnight - the study relied mainly on the zoo's audited financial statements to arrive at its conclusions.

According to the study, the zoo generates about $8 in local economic activity for every dollar it receives from the voter-approved tax levies.

Michael Carroll, an assistant professor at BGSU who co-authored the study, said the figure was derived by simply dividing the total number of dollars brought into the local economy by the number of dollars the zoo receives from its levies. He acknowledged that this figure does not take into consideration the zoo's other sources of income.

David Littmann, chief economist for Comerica Bank in Detroit, cautioned that although the numbers are impressive, every dollar dedicated to the zoo in taxes is one dollar less that residents can spend somewhere else.

"The highest power spending would be if they were attracting people from outside the area to come in," he said. "Those are fresh dollars."

According to the study, about 18 percent of the zoo's visitors come from outside of the 24-county region immediately surrounding the zoo and bring in about $22 million in "fresh dollars."

The zoo employs about 160 full-time employees and up to 500 part-time and seasonal staff. The park takes up about 62 acres, including an African exhibit slated to open next month.

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