What’s the Impact? An Economic Impact Case Study of the Potawatomi Zoo

Potawatomi Zoo


During the Fall of 2016, Zoo Advisors was engaged by Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, IN to conduct an economic impact study of their recently adopted master plan. The $37 million dollar plan charted an ambitious path towards the future for the Zoo, which had seen steady, incremental growth in recent years. It represented a bold and far-reaching vision for a new Potawatomi Zoo, one that would re-energize the community, and turn a good zoo into a truly great destination.

For this plan to become a reality, the Zoo needed the support from residents of the greater South Bend region, and turned to Zoo Advisors to build a case based on the economic impact the master plan would have on the extended community.


We began the project with an extensive review of historical attendance and membership data, drilling down to a very granular level, in order to assess and model the Zoo’s geographic visitation patterns and how they have changed over the years. We further informed this model with 10 years of attendance data from over 200 other zoological organizations in order to create specific attendance projections over the decade-long implementation of the master plan.

Our a projection model in hand, we partnered with Market Feasibility Advisors (Chicago, IL) to determine the likely economic impact of the master plan throughout the region. The outcome included an estimate of total jobs created, direct, indirect, and induced spending, and tax dollars that would result from its implementation.


The study had an impressive outcome: the plan was likely to impact the local economy to the tune of over $340 million dollars, and create over 650 jobs.

With the outcomes in hand, the second phase was to package the data in such a way that it was easily consumed and would help excite the public—no small challenge considering the topic! To do so, we identified the key messages from the study, and used them to develop an attractive and engaging graphic report that would convey the results of the work and communicate the case for support: that an investment in the Zoo would be an investment in the community, one that would pay dividends for years to come.

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