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Published: Sunday, 5/13/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Conference expected to boost Toledo economy

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

When the 1,000-plus glass artisans and fans flock into Toledo for the annual Glass Art Society conference in June, they'll bring with them a significant economic boost.

Officials with the Seattle-based nonprofit association have told local officials that they expect the five-day conference to pump an estimated $1.5 million into the local economy.

"You're looking at the local hotels who are benefiting, a lot of these people are going to be on their own for meals, so local restaurants are going to benefit as well, not to mention Toledo is going to benefit, as people are going to see this is where the glass art movement started 50 years ago," said Sherri Hudson, convention services manager at Destination Toledo, Visitors and Convention Bureau.

The Glass Art Society chose Toledo in large part because the glass art movement was born here. It has grown up all over.

"I think one of the things a lot of people in our community don't realize is this is a pretty major movement in the country and throughout the world, and basically it was launched right here in town at the museum in 1962," said Jack Schmidt of the Schmidt Messenger Gallery and Studio downtown.

Two years ago, a contingent from the Glass Art Society visited Toledo as they considered the city for the 2012 conference.

"They were very impressed with all the different galleries and things that were here," said Ms. Hudson, who led the tour.

"They were really surprised to see all there was to do here, and of course our art museum is world-class," she said.

The conference is expected to draw about 1,200 people from all over the world, most of whom will be staying downtown.

Blocks of rooms set aside at the Park Inn and Grand Plaza are spoken for, and other hotels are picking up the overflow, officials said.

"They're going to be milling around this town and spending their money," Mr. Schmidt said.

"I think that kind of speaks for itself. It's like when you have the Weak Signals [radio-controlled models] or anybody else; they're stepping up the revenue for restaurants and other venues."

The Glass Art Society held last year's convention in its hometown of Seattle.

Kauilani Robinson, a spokesman for Seattle's Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the conference drew about 1,200 people to the city and had an estimated economic impact of $2.7 million.

In addition to restaurants and other service business, local artists and gallery owners are optimistic that all the aficionados will put some out-of-town money into their pockets.

"We anticipate selling work that we make," Mr. Schmidt said. "There are going to be several exhibits going on simultaneously," including the arts commission's annual Hot Glass Gallery Exhibition fund-raiser at the Edison building.

"That's something we do every year. We might bring in some outside buyers for that exhibition."

Those who promote Toledo also say there's potential to lure other affiliated meetings or conferences.

"Whenever you have an event like this, you always have the opportunity to bring in something else."

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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