Study measures economic impact of N.H. summer camps

Beyond teaching kids how to water ski, horseback ride and aim for the bull’s-eye, summer camps directly contribute $163 million to the New Hampshire economy each year, according to a new economic impact study.And throughout nine states in the Northeast, from New Jersey to Maine, the youth summer camp industry directly contributes $3.2 billion each year, says the report, released by research firm Planning Decisions Inc. and commissioned by the American Camp Association.The direct economic impact figure was arrived at by combining the camps’ payroll, operational and capital spending in a year.”Youth camping is an economically significant but largely invisible and often overlooked industry in the nine-state northeast region of the U.S.,” says the report.The nine-state region has approximately 7,000 camps, employing 190,000 workers seasonally and 11,000 full-time who receive more than $900 million a year in wages.In New Hampshire, there are an estimated 289 camp programs, some 115 to 125 of which are overnight camps, said Bette Bussel, executive director of the American Camp Association for New England. All told, the New Hampshire camps employ 600 full-time employees and 9,900 seasonal employees each year, the report found.In 2010, New Hampshire camps spent $118.3 million on operations, $39.6 million on capital expenditures and $48.4 million on payroll, according to the report.Camps are “little economic engines in their communities that people never think about,” said Bussel.The bulk of those seasonal jobs are filled by young people aged 16 to 24 — an age group that has suffered higher unemployment rates than their older counterparts. In May, the national unemployment rate was 24.6 percent for 16- to 19-year-olds and 12.9 percent for 20- to 24-year-olds, compared with an average unemployment rate of 6.9 percent for those older than 25.”The youth camp industry is a uniquely reliable and irreplaceable source of employment opportunities for young people,” the report says.Throughout the Northeast region, the report finds that each dollar of youth camping spending led to an additional $2.13 in sales for regional businesses.”Camps have been around for a long time, it’s about 150 years since camps began. There are some old ones in New Hampshire as well, they have a long history,” said Bussel. “When I think about some of the camps that have been around for a really long time, you have multiple generations in a family going to the same camp — while things might be a little bit different each time, the basic essence of the camp is the same.” – KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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