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Tanglewood is a $103m economic engine for the Berkshires, study says

The Boston Symphony Orchestra performed at Tanglewood in July 2014.

Hilary Scott/File

The Boston Symphony Orchestra performed at Tanglewood in July 2014.

The Tanglewood summer music festival brings more than $103 million in economic activity to the Berkshires each year — up about 70 percent from 2008 estimates, according to a forthcoming study.

The roughly $40 million boost comes from an increase in visitors of about 35,000 a year, and a change in their habits, according to Stephen Sheppard, a Williams College economics professor who led both the 2008 research and the study set for release this summer.

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“When visitors come to Berkshire County and Western Massachusetts, they’re staying longer than they did before — and that’s generating a bigger impact — and they’re spending more,” he said by phone from Williamstown.

“I think it’s also the case that Massachusetts in general has continued to enjoy a good reputation as a tourist destination,” he added.

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The economic benefit of Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 80 years, is expected to increase by $24 million, according to Sheppard’s research, as the BSO adds a new four-building complex to the campus.

The new structures will provide space for the Tanglewood Music Center, the BSO’s summer music academy, founded in 1940, and the new Tanglewood Learning Institute, set to open in summer 2019.

Tanglewood draws more than 350,000 concert attendees each summer, almost 84 percent of them coming from outside Berkshire County and nearly half from outside Massachusetts, according to Sheppard’s research. His work is based on data provided by the BSO, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, and electronic surveys of concert attendees.

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The average Tanglewood visitor stays in the Berkshires for 3.8 days, bringing more than $43 million in business to local hotels, restaurants, museums, shops, and other establishments. About 13 percent of attendees visit the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, and 14 percent go to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, surveys showed.

“It’s surprising how many different sectors are affected, and some of them are quite high-wage,” Sheppard said.

Tanglewood’s presence creates positions for musicians and hospitality workers, Sheppard said, but the economic activity it generates also spells jobs in less obvious areas, such as health care, real estate, and banking.

“People who live out here need to have checking accounts, and they patronize banks, and banks hire additional people to deal with those customers, and it all adds up,” he said.

Some extra dollars are spent because visitors come to concerts with a vacation mentality, he said. “You’re relaxing, and you say, ‘Well, what the heck, I’ll splurge,’ ” he said.

Some music fans surveyed even said they had bought second homes in Berkshire County, with proximity to Tanglewood being a significant factor in the decision. Those homes generate about $13 million in property taxes per year in Lenox, Stockbridge, and nearby municipalities, Sheppard said.

“This information on the property tax really surprised me,” he said, “because what most people think of — out here in Western Massachusetts, at least — is the lodging tax and tourist tax . . . but it looks like the property tax on second homes dwarfs that considerably.”

‘When visitors come . . . they’re staying longer than they did before — and that’s generating a bigger impact — and they’re spending more.’

Stephen Sheppard, Williams College economics professor 
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Tanglewood’s reach makes it an economic engine for the region that rivals institutions such as Williams College and Berkshire Health Systems, he said, and far outstrips nearby cultural attractions such as the Clark Art Institute and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. “It’s by far the largest single destination for visitors,” he said.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.
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