Rumble of choppers sounds like money

Published 11:39 pm Saturday, September 22, 2007

NATCHEZ — Bill Brooks, Coleman Allen and Chuck Lamb are on a mini-vacation.

They rode back to Natchez for the city’s second year hosting the state Harley-Davidson rally.

Brooks rode from Coldwater.

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“We were here last year, and before we left, we made hotel reservations for this year,” Brooks said.

The three estimate that they spend close to $100 a day on food, lodging, gas and souvenirs. Brooks wife spends more, he said.

The three aren’t alone.

To Natchez Tourism Director Walter Tipton, the rumble of choppers sounds like money.

Harley-Davidson Owners Group rally coordinator Mike Sumrall said he expects 200 more riders in addition to the 650 pre-registered H.O.G. members.

On top of that, the Great Southern V-Twin Expo occurring simultaneously will bring in riders of other brands.

The rally is one of the largest conventions the city has, Tipton said.

“This is in the top 10 percent of the conferences as far as economic impact is concerned,” Tipton said.

The state rally generally moves location from year to year, but this is the second consecutive year it’s come to Natchez.

That’s good news for the Miss-Lou, Tipton said.

“It brings money to every segment of our economy,” he said. “These folks are basing their operations from the convention center, but every day, they tour the entire county.”

The dollars go to service stations, gift shops, restaurants and hotels, he said.

“Conservatively, look at 800 people for four days,” Tipton said. “The average expenditure is about $200 per day. That’ll be a direct input of $640,000.”

Tourism dollars don’t stop there, though, he said.

“Most people multiply that times a turnover factor of 1.7,” he said. “That’s close to $1 million economic impact. When the gas station takes the money in, they pay their employees, and their employees in turn have money to spend.

“Whenever we bring outside dollars into the local economy, it actually gets recycled.”

Not only do riders spend money in the Miss-Lou while they’re here, but they serve as great advertising when they go home or to another rally, Tipton said.

“These type of folks go to events all over the country,” he said. “They’ll talk about Natchez.”

Brooks, Allen and Lamb said they are among those who are sold on the city.

“We like it,” Allen, who rode from his home in Clarksdale, said. “We have a great time. We’d recommend it to anybody. We hope they have it here again next year.”