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Guv: Hosting nation's governors will boost Utah's economy at no cost to taxpayers

Published: Wednesday, June 8 2011 10:48 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Hosting the annual meeting of the National Governors Association next month will be a big boost to the state's economy at no cost to taxpayers, Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday.

"I'm sure it's significant," Herbert said of the economic impact, during a conference call about the three-day meeting that will include several Chinese provincial leaders as well as the nation's governors.

Local advertising executive Angie Welling, a member of the board raising money from companies in Utah and throughout the United States to cover the cost of the meeting, estimated the 1,000 or so participants will spend a total of close to $1 million.

The July 15-17 meeting at the Grand America hotel marks the fourth time the association has held its annual gathering in Utah — and the first such meeting since 1947. The state also was the site of the association's 1919 and 1930 yearly meetings.

Herbert said the price tag for the meeting is about $2 million, but no tax dollars are being used.

"The state's investment really is nil," the governor said.

Welling said the state is responsible for raising $1.5 million to pay for social events, security and other expenses associated with hosting the meeting. Association spokeswoman Jodi Omear said the association will use registration fees to pay for the cost of the business program, less than $600,000.

So far, Welling said, about $1.35 million has been raised but the names of the companies contributing won't be released until the meeting. About half of the money, she said, is coming from Utah companies.

Companies are being asked to buy sponsorships priced at between $1,000 to $150,000, Welling said. Contributors are offered various levels of access, ranging from being able to attend the meeting to being invited to private receptions, she said.

Herbert said sponsors were sought who "care about good governance and not having taxpayers on the hook." He said what they get in return is the "satisfaction of helping a bipartisan organization."

There are already a number of social events planned for the governors during their stay here, Herbert said.

So far, they're going to be treated to a premiere of the final movie in the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," a concert of patriotic songs by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a barbecue at Red Butte Garden.

Herbert also said there will be a bobsled competition between Western and Eastern governors on the track used during the 2002 Winter Games at the Utah Olympic Park near Park City.

"We're going to roll out the red carpet," he said, promising that while the meeting will be productive, "we want to make it enjoyable, too" and showcase the state's tourist attractions.

The association's chairwoman, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, said the meeting's topics include the role of higher education in improving state economies and international trade.

She said New York Times "Foreign Affairs" columnist Thomas Friedman, author of the bestselling book, "The World is Flat," will speak on the global challenges the states face at the meeting's Sunday session.

Email: lisa@desnews.com, Twitter: dnewspolitics

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