Economic impact study released: Race track generates $99.5 million a year for other local businesses.

NORWALK, Ohio -- For fifty years they came to play at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.Jet Dragster driver Elaine Larsen autographs a shirt for a fan.

And as the quarter-mile dragstrip at 1300 Ohio 18 evolved into a national award-winning facility entertaining half a million guests a year, the impact jolted the local economy proportionately.

Members of the business community recognized the trends and benefits.

“I think, as a health care facility working with (Summit Motorsports Park), it’s good, clean family entertainment,” said Patrick Martin, president and chief executive officer of Fisher-Titus Medical Center in Norwalk, Ohio. “It’s progressive. I don’t think people know the economic impact it has on this region.”

Summit Motorsports Park commissioned an economic impact study in 2010 by Hedges & Company, Hudson, Ohio, a leading market research and strategic planning firm in the automotive aftermarket industry.

Hedges & Company estimated that more than $99.5 million in economic impact happens each year -- outside of the gates of the dragstrip -- in Huron and Erie counties.

The cost of tickets and food, souvenirs, camping and racing fees inside the park were not included in the $99.5 million. Neither were taxes, employee wages and benefits at the race track. Beautiful dragsters line the staging lanes.

Hedges & Company based the estimates on several thousand survey responses, solicited immediately after guests attended an event. Hedges collected similar batches of surveys every year for four years.

The major drawing area for Summit Motorsports Park includes Ohio and the surrounding states, according to the study. Surveys reported strong spending in localities near the race track.

Guests who attended Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in July indicated 42 percent stayed at local hotels or camped for one to four nights. After the Auto Plus Night Under Fire in August, 33 percent stayed one or two nights.

After those two features, guests spent more than $7.3 million on hotels or camping.

Other purchases after the two major features included:The midway during the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in July.
* Food, more than $6.1 million.
* Drinks, more than $4.6 million.
* Gas, more than $6.4 million.
* Miscellaneous supplies, more than $5.1 million.
* Tips, more than $4 million.
* Other expenses such as airline, repairs, souvenirs and medical, more than $5.4 million.

These purchases subtotal more than $39 million directly spent
after those two features.

Hedges & Company used a conservative figure of 50 percent as a multiplier, meaning the amount of these purchases reinvested into the economy through other purchases by the hotels, restaurants, stores, and employees of those businesses, for a total impact of more than $58.8 million.
Fans welcomed to Night Under Fire.
Of that $58.8 million, guests spent more than 48.7 million in Huron and Erie Counties alone, Hedges estimated.

Adding all of the events for a season, the economic impact to Huron and Erie counties totals more than $99.5 million a year.

Considering sales tax, Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals guests alone spent more than $13.9 million on items subject to sales tax.

Based on a blended tax rate of 6.75 percent for Erie and Huron counties, sales tax totals $939,262 a year on purchases after the NHRA Nationals, according to the study.

Local businesses noticed the trends, and positioned themselves for name recognition by the 500,000 race track guests.

For example, Patrick Martin, president and chief executive officer of Fisher-Titus Medical Center, places signs and other items at Summit Motorsports Park.Patrick Martin, president of Fisher-Titus, mashed the gas in the early days.
“I look at Cedar Point, Kalahari and Summit Motorsports Park as magnets to our area,” Martin said. “Probably 95 percent of people who go to Summit are from Ohio and the contiguous states.

“We at Fisher-Titus Medical Center support what they’re doing, and that’s why we’re a sponsor,” Martin said. “They’re a good event presenter. They’re good, wholesome family entertainment.

“Through our Community Outreach program, we also support Summit Motorsports Park with health-related projects like providing hand sanitizer stations for guests. We partner with many local organizations, such as the Norwalk Park and Recreation Department, and the Huron County Health Department to provide wellness and health-related education and activities in our community.”

Also, through new business tracking at Fisher-Titus, Martin discovered an ever-widening footprint of care, expanding to the east, north and south.

In the third quarter of 2012, Fisher-Titus logged more than 600 first-time patients, for lab tests, surgery, X-ray, or visits to the emergency room.

Part of the growth Martin attributes to exposure to Fisher-Titus through guests at Summit Motorsports Park, who spread word of services available in Norwalk.

As a result, patients are choosing Fisher-Titus for medical care such as obstetrics, orthopedic surgery, or plastic surgery, Martin said. For more information about Fisher-Titus Medical Center, click on simply smarter care.

Also not included in the study are the negative costs to a community from accidents caused by street racing.

A dragstrip provides an inexpensive place for young people to settle their differences and vie for bragging rights, Martin said.

“Clearly it is a much safer environment than racing on the street,” Martin said.

“Imagine drag racing on Gallup Road. It happened because I was there in the late ‘60s,” Martin said, adding at the time Gallup Road was undeveloped.

Then, the Norwalk Airport was in the area of K-Mart and the industrial park on the north side of Norwalk, Martin said.Boy with cone.

Ellen Heinz has been director for four years at the Norwalk Economic Development Corp., 10 West Main St., Norwalk, on the Web at Heinz said gas stations, grocery stores, hotels and restaurants enjoy the influence of Summit Motorsports Park on their bottom line.

“An extremely large amount of their business comes from Summit Motorsports Park and the events that they have,” Ellen Heinz said. “We couldn’t dream up a better opportunity for Norwalk. There’s no better advertising or promotion we could do as a community that would even come close to bringing the number of people into Huron and Erie counties that Summit Motorsports Park does.

“They’re an amazing asset to our region that certainly couldn’t be duplicated,” said Ellen Heinz. “I think the economic impact study clearly illustrates the enormous impact Summit Motorsports Park has on Norwalk, the region and the state. The multipliers appear to be conservative.”

Many guests at Summit Motorsports Park can afford to stay and play in the area.

Tom Olak is vice president of Parts Distributors, Inc., 10 Williams St., Norwalk, Ohio, on the Web at

“I’ve seen it first hand as well as I’ve seen it throughout the community, Olak said.”

Parts Distributors is a family-owned, independent wholesale warehouse and retail automotive parts business affiliated with Auto Plus, the official parts store of Summit Motorsports Park, on the Web at

Parts Distributors enjoys increased foot traffic, especially during multi-day events at Summit Motorsports Park, Olak said.

A facet of Parts Distributors is supplying racing parts to sportsman racers, Olak said. Also the racers and their families visit the Main Street area to eat and shop.

“I’ve seen that business increase because of a race event in town,” Olak said. “Hotels take it off Main Street. Those businesses in that area north of town benefit.”
Wrenching during a Friday Test N Tune.
Regionally traffic from the race track increases business in Sandusky, Lorain and Mansfield, Olak said.

“There certainly isn’t enough hotel space in Norwalk to accommodate all those racers,” Olak said, adding he saw the $99.5 million impact study. “I firmly believe that study is conservative. In reality the impact may be bigger than that.”

For example, visitors to the track often double up the fun by spending a day or two at the Cedar Point Amusement Park and other area attractions, Olak said.

“All of that has an impact on the area,” Tom Olak said. “As that study is released, it’s important to remember two things. The growth of the race track itself in comparison to the size of the community.

“Bill Bader Jr. is an extraordinary entrepreneur,” Tom Olak said. “Summit Motorsports Park put Norwalk on the map.”
Heather Saalman won two awards at the Mr. Gasket Banquet of Champions at Kalahari.
Similar Norwalk name fame spread through Norwalk Truck Lines and Norwalk Furniture, Olak said. For 57 years Parts Distributors worked through automotive repairs and improvements with its customers.

“The caliber of racers and race events (Bill Bader Jr.) brings to Norwalk has a monumental impact on our local economy and our regional economy,” Tom Olak said. “Without that economic impact, when you look at a community our size, we would be hurting more than we are. What he brings is unprecedented growth from a tourism aspect that no other business could bring.

“The airport exists in Huron County,” Tom Olak said. “You have to look at what kind of economic impact that can bring. And I can tell you that is extremely limited.

“What Bill is doing is an unprecedented opportunity,” Tom Olak said. “I think it’s important to really illustrate what a gem we have in our back yard. I don’t think most people realize what a great facility it is, and also what a great neighbor we have in the track.”

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