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Mayor Nutter: Pope Francis visit was never billed as a moneymaker (except when it was)

Unless Mayor Michael Nutter doesn’t think a predicted economic impact of $419 million is “huge,” he may want to reconsider a comment he made during today’s press briefing on the papal visit.

Asked about businesses and restaurants in Center City (which openly complained about their lack of business) and the possible economic impact over the weekend, Nutter told reporters at a news conference today that “this was not ever billed as a huge economic impact event or a big moneymaker.”

Here’s the thing: Nutter said last week in an article published by Reuters the event was expected to generate $419 million for the Philly economy.

His office promised the same earlier this year. Nutter’s press secretary Mark McDonald told CBS News in a February statement, “I think it’s safe to say that the economic impact for the City and region will be very significant.”

McDonald didn’t provide an estimate. But Nutter’s estimate from last week likely came from another agency connected with the City of Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau used an industry formula and came up with a predicted economic impact of $418 million.

Should Nutter know or care what the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau says? Probably; he’s on the list of board members.

We won’t know for sure whether Philadelphia received an economic jolt better than a normal weekend — or perhaps worse — for a while, but the anecdotal evidence from Center City businesses shouldn’t be surprising. These big events rarely lead to major economic impacts in the cities that host them.

If anyone starts talking about an economic gain of millions for Philadelphia when the Democratic National Convention comes next year, call them out on it early. Then no one will need to fact check later on.

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