Study shows very few county fairs break even

Shortly after the 2012 Jackson County Fair, the Junior Livestock Committee commissioned Bruce Sorte of Oregon State University to do a study on the economic impact of the Fair and Expo on Jackson County. Sorte gave a preliminary report to the committee and several interested parties in the Mace Building on July 31. Sorte was seeking information that the committee felt was important to include in the final version of the report.

The actual report will be released later, but Sorte did have some constructive things to say about Jackson County Fair. One important point is that the Jackson County Fair is nearly self sustaining, and financially better off than most fairs around the state and also in other states as well. It has been highly publicized that the Jackson County Fair and Expo runs in the red. Sorte did not find that unusual, percentage wise; many others are far more in the negative column than this fair. It may be that no county fair, or the Oregon State Fair, has the ability to generate a positive cash flow. There are many reasons for that. The facilities are huge compared to the average business. Fairs are for a period of perhaps a week, as opposed to an all-year operation.

Sorte also noted that there were some 43 special events happening in Jackson County at the same time as the Fair this year. Each of those events takes away from gate receipts and that hurts both the Expo and the vendors who hope to sell food or other goods. He suggested that a type of coordination would prevent fighting for attendance with other venues.

With the realization that the Expo may never be self-sustaining, Sorte suggested that there is any number of partnerships that could be explored to help fund the operations. Those could be ad signs, reader boards or any number of other partnerships. While not solving the entire puzzle of financing, they will all help sweeten the picture.

Concerning the un-sustainability issue, a new attitude needs to be developed between the County and the Expo. The shortfall in revenue amounts to just over a dollar for each resident of Jackson County. Seems like small change to be arguing over, but the county is insisting that the Expo pay its own way. As Sorte said, it is as close to being self-sustaining as any in Oregon. Some believe that the Expo represents a “cash cow” to the county and are disappointed that it is not producing revenue far above expenses.

The Jackson county Expo was nearly a free gift to the county. Buildings, land and much more have been donated from the generosity of the people of Jackson County. It would be good for the commissioners to remember this.

There are a number of very angry people who disapprove of the heat the Expo is taking at the hands of the county. A meeting is scheduled for August 8, beginning at 6 p. m. in the Mace Building at the fairgrounds. Everyone is invited to attend to express their concerns on this issue.



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