With more than 25,000 attendees, Greenbuild 2009 led to a multi-million dollar economic boost for Phoenix and surrounding cities. Conference attendees, expo hall vendors, media, etc stayed in local hotels, ate at area restaurants, rented cars (I’ve never seen so many rental Priuses in one place), rode the light rail, and more – to the tune of $30 million.

Although hotels in the downtown Phoenix area were filled with conference goers, hotels and resorts all along the new Metro light rail line also saw a boost in occupancy. The same goes for restaurants – from national chains to local mom and pop stores, the convention brought a boost in sales at eateries as well.

Although Greenbuild 2009 was held in Phoenix, communities outside of the metropolitan area also saw a boost in business due to the conference. The U.S. Green Building Council provided several full-day tours. One tour traveled to Arcosanti and then ventured farther north to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Another tour took conventioneers to the Biosphere II in southern Arizona.

Phoenix was able to attract the USGBC to the city due, in part, to the LEED certified Phoenix Convention Center. It only makes sense that a green building conference be held in a certified green building. The convention center features solar panels, a rainwater harvesting system, and a state-of-the-art energy consumption tracking system. Of course, the convention center’s proximity to the light rail line also helped the city snag the convention.

This economic boost came at a time when the Phoenix metropolitan area is still reeling from the effects of the housing bubble burst. Despite the fact that unemployment rates in the state are lower than the national average, Phoenix consistently ranks among the top states for high foreclosure rates.

Next year, Greenbuild is headed back to Chicago. I spoke with dozens of repeat attendees and they were all thankful to have the conference in a warmer climate. Instead of bundling up due to wind and cold temperatures, many were looking forward to dinner out on the patio. Perhaps Phoenix will see another Greenbuild in its future.

While the direct spending boost from Greenbuild has passed, the city’s exposure to thousands of green builders may open up new business partnerships between the state and leading green building firms. If this happens to be the case, the long-term effects of hosting the conference may not be fully understood for some time.

Photo: combusean/Flickr

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