A Proven Community Investment: Economic Impact Case Studies of Potawatomi Zoo

Family gets close look at a tiger behind glass


In 2016 and 2018, Potawatomi Zoo contacted long-term partner Zoo Advisors to conduct economic impact studies to quantify activity attributable to its development and operations. Each study had a distinct purpose—the first study was prospective: it aimed to demonstrate the positive impact the Zoo’s master plan would have on the community in the future with the goal of securing capital funding for the plan’s implementation. The second was retrospective—it demonstrated the Zoo’s actual impact in the prior three years for additional public operating support.


Prior to the 2016 study, Zoo Advisors had been a member of the Zoo’s master plan development team, thus the economic impact study was a natural next step. Utilizing their proprietary database of zoo operating metrics, including over 10 years of global zoo performance data from hundreds of organizations, Zoo Advisors developed the Potawatomi Zoo master plan projections. These were utilized as inputs into the IMPLAN economic impact model to measure the total multiplier effect the Zoo operations would have on the local economy over 10 years, including jobs supported, labor income, value added, and tax benefits.  

For the 2018 study, Zoo Advisors made the case for operating support funding by demonstrating the actual economic impact of the Zoo on St. Joseph County, where it resides, from 2015-2018, gathering and inputting Zoo performance data into the IMPLAN model. 

The studies were presented to the Zoo as an industry-standard economic impact study document as well as a graphic executive summary report accessible to a broader audience.


The 2016 economic impact study depicted a $343M cumulative impact in the 10 years following the adoption of the Zoo’s master plan, inclusive of labor income and direct, indirect, and induced impacts, while the 2018 economic impact study demonstrated that the Zoo had had a cumulative economic impact of over $80 million on St. Joseph County. These economic impacts included significant tax revenues for the federal, state and local governments, in addition to jobs supported, labor income for residents, and revenues to locally-owned businesses in the County. Potawatomi Zoo was pleased with these results, as they not only validated the Zoo’s position as an important cornerstone of the community for continued investment but were also invaluable measurements in assisting the Zoo to secure additional capital and operation support to implement its master plan.

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