Don Welsh has lived in Chicago only two and a half years, yet he’s already captivated by the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Like a true Chicagoan, he looks forward to it every year. “I've never seen a marathon up close and personal the way you do in Chicago,” said Welsh, CEO of Choose Chicago. “It's something you look forward to and it's a tremendous source of community pride. Not only does it promote downtown, but it promotes neighborhoods that don't necessarily get attention until the marathon comes running through their streets.”
Choose Chicago is a private, nonprofit organization responsible for marketing the greater Chicago area as a business and leisure destination. Its goal is to attract 50 million people to the city by 2020. The organization is also focused on increasing Chicago’s position as a leading city for international business. Welsh views the marathon as an opportunity to attract international visitors to the city; last year, 13 percent of participants came from other countries. “For us to have a race like this just reinforces that Chicago is a great sport city and a true global city,” he said.
In 2012, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon brought an estimated $243.5 million in total business activity to the Chicago economy, an increase of more than 11 percent from 2011. It also provided the equivalent of 1,685 jobs, according to a study of the marathon’s impact by the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“I see the Bank of America Chicago Marathon as a very important and vital economic stimulator,” said Welsh, whose organization represents Chicago hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and other businesses that comprise the city’s visitor industry which ultimately supports 132,000 jobs. “It’s bigger than any convention we have when you look at total economic impact.”