AZ boycott over immigration law sees mixed results

By Bob Christie

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 18 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Still, some Arizona businesses have taken a big hit. In August, officials in Santa Monica, Calif., recommended that Phoenix-based Cavco Industries be awarded a $3 million contract to replace 20 aging mobile homes in a city-owned park. But the city council refused to give the contract to Cavco — the low bidder — because the company is Arizona-based, and Santa Monica had passed a resolution imposing sanctions.

"I don't think that what they did serves any real useful purpose," said company CEO Joe Stegmayer. The homes would have been built at a plant near Phoenix, he said, which would have led to more work for the primarily Hispanic work force there. "I don't think it really meets their objectives of trying to help people in the Hispanic community, for example, or the average working person."

The pain also has been felt by the convention industry. An estimated 15 million visitors come to Arizona each year for vacations, conventions and sporting events such as the Fiesta Bowl, pro golf tournaments and baseball spring training. The state tourism office estimates that conventions and other tourism-related activity brought in $16.6 billion in 2009 and that 157,200 people were employed in the industry.

An analysis commissioned by the Center for American Progress put hotel industry losses during the first four months after the signing of the law at about $45 million. Visitors would have spent an additional $96 million during their stays, said Angela Kelley, the group's vice president for immigration policy and advocacy.

"This is as much I think to serve as a warning to other states, particularly those who rely on tourism and conferences and conventions, that there is an economic impact to it," Kelley said. "We feel like this is a very modest slice, just a piece of what the economic impact is, and we don't think that we're overstating it or overselling it."

The study was paid for by the group, a liberal-leaning think tank, but conducted by the respected Scottsdale-based economic firm Elliott D. Pollack & Co. It also found that canceled meetings and conferences could cost the state nearly 2,800 jobs, $87 million in lost wages and more than $250 million in lost economic output over the next two to three years.

The jump in hotel occupancy cheers tourism officials. Visitation at the Grand Canyon went up by nearly 3 percent in June, July and August, compared with the same period in 2009. Arizona hotel occupancy rose by 8.3 percent in June, 2.6 percent in July and 3.4 percent in August, according to Smith Travel Research.

But conventions and the business they spark bring in much more revenue than the leisure market, said Debbie Johnson, president and CEO of the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association, and the increase in visitation is compared with dismal 2009 occupancy levels that were below national rates.

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