Tanglewood's economic impact on the Berkshires

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LENOX — Berkshire County has several cultural venues, many of them known outside the region. But when it comes to their economic impact on the local economy, there's Tanglewood and everybody else.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home since 1937 on the Lenox-Stockbridge town line has a total economic impact of $60.6 million on the Berkshire economy, according to a 2008 study by the Center for Community Development in North Adams, the last comprehensive study that has been done.

More than half of that total figure, $37.2 million, results form direct economic impacts, while $11.5 million comes from indirect ones. The remaining $11.85 million comes from induced economic activity, which occurs when households in the Berkshires spend the increased income that results from those direct and indirect economic impacts.

"The study suggests that Tanglewood is a very major player in the Berkshire economy," said Williams College Economics Professor Stephen C. Sheppard, who headed that study. Sheppard could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Although those figures are almost 10 years old, it's doubtful that they've changed much.

According to the BSO's annul report, the 2015 Tanglewood season met its revenue targets overall. Annual net support for that season, which included all fundraising and the drawdown on the BSO's endowment, increased by 7 percent from 2014. Attendance at Tanglewood increased 10.2 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year.

Direct spending from tourism in the Berkshires also has improved every year since 2009, and jumped 25 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. In 2015 along, the region's tourism spending increased 6.6 percent from the year before.

Tourists generated $453 million in spending at Berkshire businesses in 2015, according to the tourism office. The 2016 figures will be released next fall.

1Berkshire, the county's leading economic development agency, does not keep statistics for Tanglewood or any other Berkshire cultural venue, said president and COO Jonathan Butler. But anecdotally, Butler said Tanglewood has a "tremendous impact" on the Berkshire economy.

"It's the No. 1 visitor attraction to the Berkshire with over 300,000 (visitors)," Butler said. "This seasonal concentration of visitors throughout the summer has ripple effect throughout the entire Berkshires, especially in Lenox and South County."

Betsy Andrus, the executive director of the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce in Great Barrington, said Tanglewood's international reputation draws visitors to the region who tend to spread out and visit cultural venues in other South County towns while they're here.

"It's a big impact," Andrus said, referring to Tanglewood's impact on the Southern Berkshire region. "I would say it's little bit different than how people perceive it from Lenox. because so many other things are happening in Great Barrington. Tanglewood is a name that's known worldwide. People are drawn to that specifically but once they're here they drive to the individual towns to see what they offer. It's kind of a first step driving force.

"I don't mean to belittle any of the others because we have some phenomenal cultural venues here," Andrus said. "We have so much to offer. It's hard when you have so many fabulous things to say that this one's better, and that's one's not better."

However, Andrus said there's an aura about Tanglewood that makes the BSO's summer home stand out.

"It's the picture of Tanglewood," she said. "It's certainly the music, and who comes play here without a doubt. The grounds are just gorgeous. It's just beautiful to sit out there on a warm night and socialize with friends and listen to the orchestra or a popular artist. It's so iconic."

Reach Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.


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