As the cars are set to roll into Chatham for the 2017 RetroFest, municipal and downtown officials recognize the economic infusion the event creates in Chatham.
Connie Beneteau with the Historic Downtown Chatham BIA cited a 2014 economic impact study she had done for RetroFest. It concluded the event that year led to an estimated economic impact of nearly $157,000 for Chatham-Kent businesses.
The survey indicated local residents also spent more than $410,000 on products and services while attending the event.
Stuart McFadden, acting director of economic development for the municipality, said he sees the impact from RetroFest.
“I was there last year. The downtown was packed. There were thousands of people there,” he said.
With good weather, which has been mostly a given for RetroFest over the years, Beneteau estimates upwards of 30,000 people take in the two days of showcasing and activities.
“While they’re here, they will be spending money,” McFadden said. “It will definitely have an impact on businesses throughout Chatham.”
McFadden said with all those people walking by the doors of downtown businesses, merchants have the chance to grab their attention … and business.
“It’s a great opportunity for businesses here to shine. They are going to get a bunch of new people who haven’t been here before. It’s a great opportunity to make a first impression,” he said.
That impression could be a lasting one.
“The people coming in to see the cars, maybe they have a business someplace else and see Chatham-Kent as a place they might want to set up shop in the future,” he said. “It’s win-win all around.”
Paul Shettel, co-chair of the BIA, said people regularly come from as far away as Michigan and Ohio to show their cars, or just attend RetroFest.
Beneteau said the reach is even further.
“Someone’s coming from North Carolina after seeing RetroFest on Dennis Gage’s TV show,” she said, referring to Gage’s My Classic Car TV show. Gage filmed in Chatham at last year’s RetroFest.
Local hotels benefit from the weekend. Beneteau said Retro Suites is always booked up, while the Holiday Inn Express is at the marshaling point for the cruise at the John D. Bradley Convention Centre and is also a desired location for visiting car owners and their families.
Travel Lodge and the Comfort Inn on the corner of Richmond Street and Bloomfield Road have a special offer for classic car owners on the weekend.
“They’re offering overnight security for vintage car owners who stay there,” she said.
McFadden said he saw firsthand last year how local eateries benefit.
“My family and I were downtown for a wedding during RetroFest last year. We had to go into a number of different places to find a spot to get a bite to eat. This is very positive for the business community,” he said.
Cars will line King Street from Second Street to Adelaide Street. Beneteau said there is even a contingency plan should more cars show than what can be showcased along that stretch of road. She said they have planned space north of the Thames River should that be the case.
McFadden said RetroFest is also an indicator that hard work does indeed pay off.
“We appreciate all the work that goes into creating this event. It’s important to recognize the people who spend countless hours planning it so the rest of us can enjoy it,” he said.