Room (For Improvement) at the Inn

If you had a relatively new and shiny airport and there was no interest-none whatsoever-from people in the hotel industry to build a hotel to capitalize on travelers, perhaps that would be telling you something about the demand for rooms. But not the leaders of Allegheny County government circa the turn of the century: by hook or by crook they wanted to have a hotel there, and, with no private interest and local government authorities that were "maxed out" according to one of the former County commissioners, they turned to an authority from Dauphin County to get the job done.

This tale comes back to the surface due to an article that shows neither the County, nor the municipality or the school district where the hotel is located, have received a payment in lieu of taxes. Smacks of a "sweetheart deal" when it is discovered that all other expenses took precedent over tax payments and, because of all the other dealings the Authority was involved in, there is no money for tax payments. Ironically, one former County commissioner said that the hotel was needed to "attract more flights": one would think that the airport would have spun off development, not the other way around. Sounds eerily like the situation with the convention center and its quest for a headquarters hotel. If the hotels were so integral to the success of these facilities, why were they not included in the initial plans?

If an out of county property owner failed to make tax payments on a property he would be put on the delinquent rolls and be labeled a tax cheat or an absentee property owner. And when there is a discussion about tax-exempt properties very rarely does the property owned by public sector entities get mentioned. Why does a public authority not get the same treatment? This is an episode County taxpayers, and those writing checks for property taxes in the airport area, should not soon forget.

Is a Convention Center Hotel Warranted?

Proponents of a convention center hotel are lamenting the fact that, after a decade since the completion of the new center, the hotel project has failed to get underway. Advocates are looking for a 500-room full service hotel that would act as a “front door” for the convention center.  Their argument: the hotel is necessary to maximize the center’s potential and they are willing to throw taxpayer money at it to make it happen. 



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Summing Up the G-20 Summit

Shortly after the conclusion of the September G-20 Summit, the head of VisitPittsburgh claimed the event’s economic benefits to the City and region reached $35 million.  As we pointed out in an earlier Policy Brief, that was a very dubious claim. Two months later data are available that call into serious question the notion the region enjoyed a $35 million boost in economic benefits.  We now have a reading on the RAD (regional asset district) tax revenue for September, which is a gauge of retail sales in Allegheny County, as well as figures for hotel occupancy tax revenue for September, which allow us to calculate the dollars spent on hotel rooms during the month.  By comparing the September 2009 data to September 2008 numbers and examining the pattern of year over year changes for 2009, it is possible to come to a reasonable conclusion about the G-20 meeting’s direct impact on spending. 


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