Report puts Boston Symphony Orchestra's 'economic force' at $103M in Berkshires, $261M statewide

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LENOX — More than $260 million statewide, including $103 million in Berkshire County.

That's the overall economic impact of the Boston Symphony's summer season at Tanglewood and its three-season schedule in Boston, including the Boston Pops.

The big numbers come from an independent study by Williams College professor of economics Stephen Sheppard that depicts the BSO as "a key economic force" in western and eastern Massachusetts.

"Tanglewood has an enormous impact on the economy of Berkshire County in particular, increasing total economic output by more than $100 million and supporting as many as 1,000 jobs," Sheppard's report concludes. The effects on the county's economy result in an unemployment rate that is 1.8 percentage points below what it would be otherwise, he noted in his study completed last October.

The final report, issued by the BSO Inc. this week, points out a 40 percent economic-impact increase statewide, or $74 million, adjusted for inflation, since Sheppard's previous analysis completed in 2008, reflecting data gathered during the previous two years.

According to Sheppard, the overall surge includes the effects of a significant 51 percent increase in visitor spending at Tanglewood, where average attendance has increased by 11 percent in the past 10 years.

"Our models suggest that, directly or indirectly, nearly 2,400 jobs in Massachusetts exist because of BSO operations and the visitors attracted by BSO programming," he said. "These jobs are in hundreds of different economic sectors — obviously in the performing arts but also in such diverse sectors as building services, retail and wholesale trade, insurance, health care and data processing."

Sheppard, director of the Williams College Center for Creative Community Development, has told The Eagle that the BSO's summer home generates between 930 and 1,100 jobs directly or indirectly, representing a payroll of $35 million for the region's labor income. Although many are seasonal, these jobs provide an overall average income exceeding $40,000 a year, generating $15 million in federal, state and local tax revenues.

The preliminary Berkshire County portion of the study was originally released last May. It pointed out that the new four-building performance, education and visitor complex under construction to support the orchestra's summer institute for advanced young performers and the new Tanglewood Learning Institute for adults will boost the orchestra's economic impact in the Berkshires to $127 million a year when completed by June 2019 — more than double the $60 million Tanglewood total reported in the 2008 study.

During the construction of the building project, about 200 jobs have been added, Sheppard noted.

The project and related expansion initiatives represent a $40 million investment by the nonprofit BSO — about $30 million for construction plus $10 million for a performance endowment to support Tanglewood concert and programming activities as well as additional facilities upgrades, according to BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe.

The 10-year increase in overall growth is "robust and gratifying on so many levels," said Volpe. "The fact that Tanglewood is expected to generate $127 million per year to the Berkshire County economy in 2018 and 2019 is particularly impressive."

Local officials in Lenox, and in Stockbridge where most of the Tanglewood campus is located, have been steadfast in their support of the orchestra's key role in driving the region's crucial tourism economy, especially the ever-expanding hospitality segment. Of about 4,300 lodging rooms countywide, nearly 1,000 are in Lenox with several hundred more in Stockbridge, not including the rapidly growing Airbnb/VRBO online short-term rental market.

"Tanglewood is Lenox; we need to support them any way we can," said Selectman Edward Lane this past week as the Lenox board approved a renewal of the town's Tanglewood Business Partnership. The $750 annual contribution, the legal limit, represents "a small gesture of our appreciation for them being here," Lane added.

The recent extension of the Tanglewood season —11 weeks this summer — includes an increasingly diverse array of popular artists bookings, comprising a record 14 from June 15 to Sept. 2 surrounding the BSO's core mission of classical concerts and recitals in the Shed and Ozawa Hall, including Tanglewood Music Center and Boston University Tanglewood Institute performances by young musicians.

Sheppard's Williams College study cites these general factors for the increase in the BSO's Berkshire County impact:

- An increase in the festival's overall attendance

- Increased visitor spending

- Longer visits to the area by tourists, nearly four days per stay

- A growing perception of Massachusetts, in general, and Berkshire County, in particular, as a vibrant tourist destination

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com or 413-637-2551.


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