DANVILLE — Happy days are here – again!
Business is good in this small central Kentucky town, set among the rolling bluegrass and home to the prestigious private liberal arts college, Centre College, known for its historic 1921 6-0 victory over Harvard in football.
But on Thursday night, Centre and Danville will bask in the national spotlight. The college is hosting the vice presidential debate between Democratic incumbent Joe Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan. On Saturday, just 14 miles away, close to 25,000 descended on the area for a re-enactment of the Civil War battle at Perryville.
“We’re a small town with big shoulders,” said Jody Lassiter, president and CEO of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership.
When the Commission on Presidential Debate chose Centre for the 2012 vice presidential debate it didn’t surprise or frighten anyone here because Centre hosted the 2000 debate between Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman.
“The local governments and local businesses embraced it,” Lassiter said when the news came. “I’ve never heard the first statement of anyone wondering can we get this done.”
A dozen years ago, the direct tourism impact alone of the 2012 debate was nearly $650,000 locally and more than $2.5 million for Kentucky, Lassiter said. That doesn’t include indirect impact or spending on infrastructure improvements.
So far this time, Centre has spent $550,000 and the city another $100,000 getting ready for Thursday’s debate, Lassiter said, so the impact will be far greater.
Lassiter said no one has tried to estimate in advance the economic impact of the 2012 debate, but he expects it to be greater even than the inflationary growth over the past decade.
“It’s a lot bigger event this time and we’re expecting even more people,” he said.
Business is good on Main Street, too.
Marty Sullivan, owner of Thoroughbred Threads located in downtown Danville, said business has been picking up for the past two weeks and he expects business to literally take off the week of the debate. His business is licensed to create and sell official debate t-shirts, sweatshirts, caps and other apparel and it supplies Centre’s demands.