Regional economic impact of NC Transportation Museum reached almost $24 million in 2022

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, February 28, 2023

SPENCER — The projected regional economic impact of the North Carolina Transportation Museum reached an all-time high at almost $24 million in 2022, according to a collaborative report released by the museum and the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority.

The 2022 projection exceeded the previous high of just over $22 million in 2019 by more than $1.5 million and is notable because the museum’s operations were still limited by COVID-19 restrictions in the early months of 2022. The museum reported over 144,000 visitors last year.

The museum’s regional economic impact is calculated by taking into account how much visitors to the museum spend in the community, as well as at the museum.

“The information provided by the museum to calculate the impact included visitor numbers, ticket sales, gift shop sales, payroll and payroll impact, volunteer service hours, visitor spending in the area including 944 hotel room nights, third party vendor fees and services for events and activities, third party event rentals at the museum, and event production and operation costs,” according to a press release sent out by the museum.

Two annual events played a crucial role in the increased economic impact: the six-day “Day Out With Thomas,” which includes an interactive train ride with a life-sized Thomas the Tank Engine, that occurs in September and October, as well as the 26-night “The Polar Express Train Ride” in November and December. Both events bring families to Rowan County where they stay in hotels, dine in restaurants, shop in stores and visit other attractions, creating even more economic impact for the county.

James Meacham, the Rowan County Tourism CEO, praised the museum for its contribution to the county’s tourism and said it was “an integral part of the local economy.”