Ironman will have a positive impact on the economy of northern Michigan

The Frankfort-Elberta business community is excited by the prospect of thousands of people coming to the area the week of September 12 for the 2021 Ironman 70.3 competition.

Very few people won’t say that 2020 hasn’t been difficult for the Northern Michigan business community. While this summer has been a lot better from a business standpoint, an event like the Ironman 70.3 is the kind of financial boost most tourist communities are looking for right now.

Frankfort-Elberta Chamber of Commerce Director Joanne Bartley said it will be a very busy time in their community during the event. She said they haven’t estimated how much money it will bring in, but it will be quite significant.

“We’re expecting 6,000-10,000 people as there are 2,500 competitors registered right now and they’ve told us they’re bringing an average of 2.2 people with them to these events,” Bartley said.

Competitors come from all over the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Brazil, Australia and many other countries.

Trevor Tkach, president and CEO of Traverse Tourism, which also covers Benzie County, said it would benefit several surrounding counties in northern Michigan.

“We have a feeling that Benzie, Traverse City, Manistee and Wexford will also benefit, as Benzie County does not have enough rooms and restaurants to meet all of these needs,” Tkach said. “There is a good chance that it will spill over and have a good financial impact on many communities. “

Tkach stressed that not only the business community will benefit, but also the airline industry, as people will arrive from parts of the United States and several foreign countries.

“We’re trying to justify consistent air service at this time of year, because normally they start to wrap up around Labor Day,” Tkach said. “So if we can give them a reason to keep more flights online, it benefits us as a community to have more flights to go elsewhere and keep the prices lower because they do more volume. There are a lot of positives on the transportation side of having this event when we have it. “

Michelle Barefoot, director of operations and marketing for the Benzie County Chamber of Commerce, said they expected accommodation to spill over into surrounding areas for competitors. She said that after Ironman officials announced late last year that they would be coming to Frankfurt, people started booking rooms, which means they’re pretty much full. in the immediate vicinity.

“It’s normally an off season for us,” Barefoot said. “The chamber plans to create a page with information for people showing them great places to eat, stay and visit.”

She said the food industry would also benefit.

“The restaurants are going to be packed. I think if the restaurants in Frankfurt filled every chair there would always be people waiting to eat, ”Barefoot said. “So I can see it filtering into Thompsonville, Traverse City, Honor, Empire and other places.”

She added that the economic benefits would also spill over into other areas of the local economy.

“It will be an advantage for other companies and they will probably also sell all of their trinkets and T-shirts,” Barefoot said. “This type of crowd entering an area is going to wipe out their inventory and that’s a good thing considering that last year they didn’t sell as much because of COVID.”

Tkach agreed to say that most businesses can no longer rely solely on the survival of seasonal residents and tourists and events like this help in this region.

“It extends the season, which is important because a lot of us live here 365 days a year and can’t just live through the summer months anymore,” he said. “We need to think about how we will continue to grow in the fall and spring to generate sustainable and vibrant income.”

Barefoot said it would be a great opportunity for food trucks and even catering services to provide dining opportunities for those who want to buy something in a hurry.

“The good thing is that the restaurants that could dine al fresco did it for COVID, so part of it is already in place,” Barefoot said. “Frankfort city center unfortunately does not allow meals on the city sidewalk.”

Barefoot said things will be extremely busy during the Ironman competition, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.

“It’s great for the region and great for the economy,” she said. “It’s just a day and it’s not such an inconvenience.”

Bartley compared the influx to even more than they get in the community by July 4 and said they are working with Ironman officials on what to expect.

“We’ve been working with them (the Ironman officials) and they’re trying to give us an idea of ​​what it’s going to be like on the day of the event and those who came before it,” Bartley said. “Looks like it’s gonna be busy.”

Bartley said one of the challenges businesses, restaurants and hotels face is having enough staff for the influx of large crowds. Like most resorts on the shores of Lake Michigan, businesses tend to downsize after Labor Day, when most tourists and summer residents return home.

“All restaurants and hotels are starting to prepare and be ready to make sure they have enough staff because everywhere there are staff issues,” she said. “The college kids who worked for them go back to school so they try to get them to come back to work.”

House officials hope all who visit will take home memorabilia and mementos from the area businesses of their time in the Frankfort-Elberta area. She added that they also hope it will inspire them to return in the future.

“I had a guy call me weeks ago who is a competitor who came here to train and he said it was an amazing place,” Bartley said. “We just talked at our committee meeting that people who come to a beautiful area like this for the first time usually say, ‘My God, why haven’t we been here before’ and then come back to the future. “

Tkach said the average family income of the competitors is $ 247,000, which will give them the means to return in the future.

“They are active, outdoor people and the demographics show they have an income that will support our economy by staying longer and possibly coming back,” Tkach said. “A lot of those people who participate come in early to train, so we’ve probably had people all summer who have come to Benzie County to acclimatize to the area.”


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