On March 15, the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Association was invited to speak to the Crow Wing County Committee of the Whole to share the results from two years of studies and surveys aimed at providing research-grounded information detailing the impact of the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway on quality of life and the economy within the Byway area.
Over the last two years, the PBSBA has been working with the University of Minnesota’s Tourism Center and University’s Center for Community Vitality on this project. Funding was provided through the Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, the Carlson Chair for Travel, Tourism and Hospitality and Explore Minnesota Tourism, with agency support from the Pine River Chamber of Commerce.
The research was completed in the fall of 2010 and the final report was compiled by the University staff in December.
PBSBA chair Lynn Scharenbroich explained that the economic impact of investments over the last decade was assessed during year one of the study. She briefly reviewed the history of the Byway’s development over this period of time, highlighting the benefits accrued to the county as well as outlining some of the major projects completed by the PBSBA through many and varied partnerships. These projects figured prominently into the impact of Byway investments noted here and reported in 2009 dollars:
• $631,114 of economic activity with $417,013 of direct spending.
• Spending by the PBSBA helped create seven jobs in the local economy.
• $271,733 in labor income with $202,786 of direct spending.
In year two of the project, intercept surveys of Byway users provided the data used to calculate the economic impact of Byway travelers. Byway users were only considered to be Byway travelers if they reported in the survey that they were visiting the area specifically because of the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway.
• In 2010, an estimated 23,800 travel parties visited the region specifically because of the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway.
• These travel parties spent $21.6 million dollars while in the region; $14.6 million on locally produced goods and services.
• This spending by Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway travelers created a total of $21.2 million in economic output in the regional economy, including 331 full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs and $7.2 million in labor income.
Scharenbroich reiterated that while the positive economic impact of the Byway is significant, the results of the survey related to the positive impact the Byway has on residents’ quality of life is just as significant. Based on the survey data from this study, residents reported the following:
• Eight out of 10 residents were aware of the Byway in their area.
• From a list of 14 community attributes rated as important to quality of life, the Byway contributed positively to eight of them.
• Attributes positively affected by the Byway were community beauty, preservation of cultural/historical sites, variety of community amenities, sense of area unity, quality recreation opportunities, natural area preservation, plenty of fairs/festivals/museums and traffic control.
To learn more about the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Association and to support what you enjoy, visit www.paulbunyanscenicbyway.org.