Archived Story

$20 million par for PGA event

Published 5:07pm Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Between now and 2014, when the national golf stage returns for the 75th Senior PGA Championship, this region needs to build upon its estimated $20 million impact.

“Last year, the event was held at a private country club in Louisville with a metropolitan statistical area population of 1.3 million people,” Niles-Buchanan Rotary Club heard Monday from Cornerstone Alliance President Wendy Dant Chesser at Riverfront Cafe. “Two years ago, the event took place in a suburb of Denver, 2.7 million people. Berrien County’s population is 155,000. The Community Showcase Committee asked for six meetings to get ready. Last week, we had our 22nd.”

Vendors hired 264 local residents to run concessions, provide security or tend to parking. Businesses used the event to entertain clients, including from out of state.

“Keeping this momentum going is the challenge I see,” she said. “What is good for Benton Harbor-St. Joseph is good for Niles and Buchanan. There are 11 counties in our region. ‘Michiana’ is also a brand, so we’ve been working with folks in South Bend. We want Kalamazoo and Holland to see what we’re doing with Harbor Shores and find a way to tap in. ‘North county’ and ‘south county’ is common terminology, but it shows divisiveness. We’ve got way too much to work on together to get ready for the next one in 708 days.”

Here’s a recap by the numbers of the 73rd Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid May 21-27 at Harbor Shores:

• 23 —miles of fiber optic cable laid. NBC and Golf Channel each televised six hours from a Paw Paw Avenue command center. “The same hole that looked beautiful out the window looked even better on television. ‘And now, back to Benton Harbor…’ The challenge is to build on that positive image,” Chesser said.

• 1,940 —people from 19 states who paid $125 to “volunteer” for at least four three-hour shifts. “We had 255 people volunteer for cleanup, everything from picking up trash to planting flowers.”

• 211 — Mercedes-Benz courtesy vehicles.

• 230 — golf carts. Players walk 7.5 miles, but shuttles were allowed between greens and tees due to distance. A loop shuttle ferried visitors into St. Joseph and Benton Harbor.

• 58,000 — pounds of ice purchased locally to cool beverages.

• 88,175 — square-feet of floor space built and carpeted.

• Nine — site search consultants brought in conjunction with Michigan Economic Development Corp.

• 12,000 — net increase in cases of beer for the distributor.

• One — champion, England’s “absolutely gracious” Roger Chapman. “I was fortunate enough to play golf with him in the pro-am Monday. He was the same person the whole way through, whether playing with hackers or walking away with the tournament,” Chesser said.

“That amount of money coming to town is huge,” President Kim Wooden said. “If you consider that influx in tangent with the equestrian center and Four Winds casino, what’s going on along the lakeshore, in 10 years this county is going to be different.”

About Wendy Dant Chesser

President, Cornerstone Alliance

Joined in January 2005. Became president in December 2007.

Cornerstone is a non-profit, investor-driven economic development organization dedicated to tax and job base creation in the communities that comprise northern Berrien County, serving as a single point of contact for companies, site selection consultants and corporate real estate executives.

The former deputy executive director for program operations of the Indiana Department of Commerce also serves as a trustee of the 530-acre Harbor Shores development and directs the 700-member Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce.

Wendy is a native of Jeffersonville, Ind. She has a 1991 bachelor’s degree in business management from Indiana University Southeast in New Albany.

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