The Unexpected Lasting Effects of the G-20 Summit

As predicted by Pittsburgh’s cheerleaders, the G-20 Summit of world leaders held in Pittsburgh two years ago is having a lasting effect on the City. However, the effect has been a spate of civil lawsuits-clearly not what they had in mind. Recently a journalist covering the event has filed suit against the City in Federal court making him the fifth person to do so. While the suits are all pending and in various stages of the system, one thing is certain-the lingering costs of the Summit keep piling up on the City.

When Pittsburgh was selected to host the Summit, area leaders were quick to point out the possible economic benefits for the region. Among those was the worldwide exposure the City would gain leading to foreign companies to expand or locate in the City. Two years later all we know is that the number of lawsuits heavily outweighs the number of foreign firms that have moved into the City as a result of the Summit.

Shortly after the Summit’s conclusion, the head of VisitPittsburgh claimed the event’s economic benefits to the City and region reached $35 million. As we wrote in a Policy Brief that same year (Volume 9, Number 71) there was a decline in the Regional Asset District tax collections for September 2009 from the previous year and only a slight uptick in hotel tax collections when compared to previous Septembers. At that time we noted that while some hotels and restaurants may have experienced benefits from the Summit, we question whether the undisclosed costs of adding staff and paying overtime to accommodate the two or three days of extra guests outweighed the benefits.

Any benefits from hosting the Summit quickly dissipated and have become a distant memory. But two years later the costs, in the form of lawsuits against the City, linger. It’s a safe bet that the City’s boosters didn’t foresee the lasting effects of the G-20 Summit would be manifested through the court system.