Economic study under way for Hollister rally

Study will determine if there are economic benefits to Hollister
and the surrounding areas
Hollister – As it enters its 10th year, the Hollister Independence Rally Committee has hired a Midwestern consulting firm to study the economic impact of Hollister’s signature annual event on the surrounding community.

HIRC board members selected Illinois-based Wilson Consulting Friday to begin work on the report immediately. The scope of the inquiry will extend beyond San Benito County and include Monterey, Santa Clara, Merced and Santa Cruz counties as well, said HIRC Executive Director Helen Nelson.

Nelson said the firm was chosen from eight competitors because its president, Dave Wilson, has experience creating economic impact studies on events with similar dynamics to the three-day long rally, which officials estimated drew about 120,000 people this year.

Nelson hasn’t met with Wilson yet to nail down the specifics of what the study will cover because the board just made its decision.

Although Nelson didn’t have an exact cost for the study, she said it should stay under the $10,000 mark and be completed within three to four weeks. By way of comparison, the Gilroy Garlic Festival conducted an economic impact study in 1999 and spent $7,000, said Assistant Executive Director Joann Kessler.

Nelson believes an economic impact study will justify what the rally brings in revenue not only to Hollister, but the entire area.

While the study will take a chunk out of HIRC’s budget, Nelson said it should be well worth the money and believes that in the end, the financial prospectus will save the committee money.

After the study is completed, which Nelson hopes will be by the end of September when the committee’s fiscal year ends, she plans to go to the state and use the hard numbers to justify it mitigating the committee’s law enforcement costs.

This year, about 150 police officers with State Parole, the Department of Justice and a multitude of surrounding police departments patrolled the event daily during peak hours. HIRC estimates its law enforcement bill to total about $300,000 – its largest expense.

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