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The Democratic National Convention was held in Charlotte Sept. 4-6, 2012. WFAE's comprehensive coverage of the event is found here.

CRVA Looks To Outside Firm For 'Credibility' In DNC Study

Erin Sutton

The City of Charlotte and several tax-payer funded agencies will pay an outside agency about $25,000 to estimate the DNC's boost to the local economy.

It's pretty standard for the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority to do a "this is how our economy benefited" estimate after major conventions. It's highly unusual for the CRVA to hire an outside firm to do it.

But CRVA CEO Tom Murray says the DNC was no ordinary event, "and we wanted people that have done events of this size and this magnitude to help lend to the credibility of the estimates that are gonna come out of this study."

The CRVA's own credibility has suffered. A recent Charlotte Observer investigation showed the agency routinely inflated economic impact figures for conventions when former CEO Tim Newman was in charge.

Murray says the CRVA now uses a different formula to generate those numbers developed by a firm called Tourism Economics. And that's who the CRVA has hired to do the DNC study. Tourism Economics works with dozens of cities around the country on tourism studies and recently evaluated the impact of the Olympics in London, says Murray.

"Tourism Economics has got their own credibility at stake when we're delivering this report to you, so I would think that you would see that this is a way to help lower that risk that somebody would manipulate the numbers," says Murray.

There's that word "credibility" again. Tourism Economics President Adam Sacks uses it, too. He says his goal with the DNC study is to come up with a "credible number" - not necessarily an impressive one. Which means he'll look both at the rippling impact of every dollar spent during the DNC and the dollars lost because security made people stay away and businesses shut down.

But what does it matter now? Few events match the magnitude of a political convention and Charlotte's not in line to host another anytime soon.

"We're doing it because we want to know," says CRVA CEO Tom Murray. "And you want to know, right?"

But it's more than curiosity driving the CRVA, the Charlotte Regional Partnership, the Charlotte Chamber, Center City Partners and the city itself to split the $25,000 tab for this study.

See, most of Charlotte's big public investments got a little help from an economic impact study - Time Warner Cable Arena, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Knights Stadium that will break ground Friday. Even the Convention Center had a study.

Murray says the DNC study could show Charlotte's weak spots in attracting big conventions. There's long been talk of the need for a mega-hotel Uptown. Murray hints the DNC study could be useful for that.

"Clearly there were people that felt they had to go too far to stay here (during the DNC)," says Murray.  "If we find that we'd love to do lots of more DNCs, than how would we be better at delivering a DNC-type convention? We might say we'd have more hotels closer to the center. But we're not ready to say that yet."

At least not until the study's finished in a few months.