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University of Minnesota Extension

Economic impact of proposed expansion of the Brainerd Lakes YMCA

Street view of the Brainerd, Minnesota YMCA.

Key findings

  • Construction impacts: Expansion and renovation construction activities will generate an estimated $43 million of economic activity in Crow Wing County.
    • This includes more than $17 million in labor income.
    • Projects will support 288 jobs.
    • Industries that will benefit the most from the projects include housing, hospitals, and building material suppliers.
  • Operations impacts: The Brainerd Lakes YMCA’s total operations, including current and new programming and services, will generate an estimated $7.2 million in annual economic impact in Crow Wing County once construction is complete.
    • This includes $2.7 million in labor income for residents.
    • The YMCA will support 343 jobs.
    • Industries that will benefit the most from the YMCA include real estate, owner-occupied dwellings, and electric power generation and distribution.
  • Neighborhood influence: Data on YMCA users’ traffic patterns shows people clustered in the downtown area — indicating people are coming to downtown either early or staying later in conjunction with their visit to the YMCA.
    • A deeper analysis of the data indicates the most visited locations include the post office, coffee shops, schools, housing developments, and pharmacies.
    • The data indicates the extent to which the YMCA serves as an important element in attracting people to downtown.
  • Contributions to quality of life: The YMCA contributes to several aspects of quality of life — a conclusion supported by a survey of users.
    • When asked to rate the role of the YMCA on a variety of community metrics, users agreed with the sentiment that the YMCA provides an opportunity to give back and support neighbors (small-town atmosphere), is a resource for nurturing children (positive atmosphere for raising children), and promotes healthy habits (recreational opportunities).
  • Options for childcare: The YMCA’s expansion of its childcare operations will also provide a needed service for the Brainerd area economy.
    • The number of available daycare slots will increase from 54 to between 128 and 138.
    • Survey data reveals childcare is an issue for both families and employers in Crow Wing County.
  • Health outcome improvements: Regular exercise and physical activity has positive impacts on health outcomes. These improved health outcomes lead to savings.
    • A 2021 study showed that adults who began to exercise in or before middle age saved anywhere from $824 to $1,874 annually on health care costs after retirement.
    • The Brainerd Lakes YMCA has approximately 900 adult members, equating to a potential savings of $1.7 million per year.

About this report

As an institution that has existed in Brainerd for more than 130 years, the Brainerd Lakes YMCA continuously strives to meet the community’s needs. Moving into the future, programming is an important focus. Thus, the Brainerd Lakes YMCA is working through a capital planning and development process to determine its optimal mix of programming and facility design. After a careful study of options, and in consultation with the community, the Brainerd Lakes YMCA is moving forward with four initiatives. They include:

  • Expanding and renovating the current downtown Brainerd location.
  • Expanding childcare offerings by acquiring a neighboring building.
  • Renovating and expanding programming at Camp Vanasek.
  • Building an indoor sports complex.

To help inform its decisions, the Brainerd Lakes Area YMCA was interested in gathering data and information to understand the potential economic impact of the proposed expansions. This Extension report quantifies the economic impact of the first three projects. The indoor sports complex is still in exploratory stages.

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Authors: Brigid Tuck, senior economic impact analyst; DeeDee LeMier, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2022

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