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GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - LaughFest starts on Thursday and is sure to bring a lot of laughs to Grand Rapids, but with the funny comes a lot of money.

Last year LaughFest raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for the Gilda's Club of Grand Rapids which is good, but that number is small when you compare it to the impact it has on the city's economy.

"There is about 55,000 people who visit LaughFest about 20,000 wouldn't have come to Grand Rapids otherwise," explains Paul Isely economics professor at GVSU. For the last couple of years Isely has studied the economic impact of LaughFest.

"When those 20,000 people spend money they spend about $1.7 million," explains Isely. That $1.7 million then circulates in the economy and adds about $2.5 to $3 million to the local economy.

Each year LaughFest grows. In 2013 the average person spent $60 on things like lodging, food, and transportation which is $20 more than 2012. The reason for the increase says Isely is the better economy and people willing to travel longer distance to get to Grand Rapids.

"The recognition of the event has led people to come from further away. You don't grab a meal at home you grab it here."
For the hotels this means 3000 to 4000 more overnight stays, but the biggest impact LaughFest has isn't the money. It is the promotion.

"Things like LaughFest, Artprize, those types of things help us brand the city and bring in new investment and that effect is even bigger than the money being spent at the festivals."

This is good news for Kent county's $1.275 billion tourism industry.

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