Feb. 18, 2011
New jobs and economic prosperity supported under proposed state bill to help draw more visitors and conventions to King County
Expansion of state convention center and support for the arts would attract more tourists, create jobs and prosperity
Business, labor and arts leaders joined today in backing a bill requested by King County Executive Dow Constantine and introduced today in Olympia by State Rep. Tina Orwall to stimulate economic growth through support of programs that draw more tourists here.
"Every visitor we bring to King County spends money and provides revenues needed to support human services, housing, public safety, and transportation," said Executive Constantine. "As the economy begins to recover, we need to do all we can to position the region for economic prosperity."
Rep. Orwall's bill would reinvest four revenue streams currently dedicated to Safeco Field and Qwest Stadium to support arts and cultural programs, expand the Washington State Convention Center, establish workforce housing to help workers such as those employed in the hospitality, service, arts and related industries, and support other projects that spur tourism countywide and generate economic benefits.
"The arts are an economic engine that generates $1.75 billion in local activity that benefits everyone," said Executive Constantine. "The work to essentially double the capacity of the State Convention Center will provide thousands of good-paying construction jobs in the short term, and over the long term will draw hundreds of thousands more visitors who will spend an estimated quarter-billion dollars in new money here and create even more jobs."
"Cultural organizations employ 29,000 people in King County and generate $79 million dollars in tax revenue alone, according to a recent ArtsFund study," said Jim Kelly, Executive Director of 4Culture, the King County Cultural Development Authority. "Beyond the economics, the arts bring people together, allow us to share our diverse cultural traditions and build a sense of community that is inclusive for all."
"There continues to be strong market demand for an expansion of the state's flagship convention center," said Tom Norwalk, President and CEO of Seattle's Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We've turned away more than $1 billion in potential business in the past five years due to lack of space and available dates. Addition of a similarly-sized convention facility adjacent to the existing convention center would give Seattle the flexibility to simultaneously host two mid-sized conventions or to employ both facilities in tandem to attract larger ones."
"The Labor Council strongly supports this effort to provide for a much-needed expansion of our convention center," said David Frieboth Executive Secretary Treasurer the M.L. King County Labor Council, AFL-CIO. "The expansion in direct construction activity will address the immediate economic needs in terms of job creation, and provide for the long term economic vitality of the region."
The new expanded convention center is estimated to bring in 130,000 additional new visitors per year once it reaches stable operations. Expanding the facility sooner will result in $1.4 billion in additional economic activity over the first decade.
"Whether in town for a convention, the arts scene or our natural environment, people from all over the world come to Washington and spend their money, and that makes our convention center and tourist attractions priceless economic assets," said Phil Bussey, president & CEO of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. "Every dollar spent on tourism and the arts today brings back so much more in terms of sustaining tax revenue and employment, and ingenuity and creativity for our region going forward. I support the legislation proposed today so that we can continue to allocate funds that support these assets."
"Tourism dollars are enormously important to Downtown Seattle's well-being," said Kate Joncas, President of the Downtown Seattle Association. "Paired with an expanded convention center, greater investment in our hospitality industry not only means more visitor dollars, but more local jobs here at home."
Under the proposed legislation (HB 1997), four local revenue streams would stay in King County and be continued to support local economic growth:
- The 2% hotel/motel tax within King County would be continued. This revenue is committed to other purposes through 2020 but would be available for the activities proposed starting in 2021.
- The 0.5% sales tax collected at restaurants and bars in King County would expire as scheduled under law at the end of 2015. Because the bonds for Safeco Field are being repaid later this year, the remaining years of this revenue stream would be available for the proposed economic activities.
- Two car rental taxes totaling 3% would be continued.
According to Rep. Orwall's office, four specific projects are included in the legislation:
- $3 million per year from 2012 to 2020 would go to 4Culture, King County's Cultural Development Authority, which provides programs, financial support and services in the arts, public art, heritage and historic preservation.
- $5 million per year from 2012 to 2020 would go to the development of housing affordable to working people, such as those employed in tourism, hospitality, or arts related fields.
- $1 million per year would go to the Community Development and Preservation Authority Account to support the livability and visitor economy of neighborhoods near Safeco and Qwest fields.
- Remaining funds would support expansion of the Washington State Convention Center and other capital projects and programs that support tourism and generate economic activity in the region. The expanded Convention Center alone will draw tens of thousands of new visitors each year, and result in increased employment and tax revenue.
The Legislature last year converted the Washington State Convention Center from a state non-profit corporation to a King County Public Facilities District.