BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Restaurants, hotels, stores and dry cleaners in Bismarck have all reported receiving an economic boost during the four months every two years when the North Dakota Legislature is in session.
The city experiences sustained economic activity when legislators, lobbyists, and other stakeholders come to town for the 80-day session from January to April during odd-numbered years.
Brian Ritter, president of the Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC, said the session has been a significant contributing factor to a steady increase in first-quarter taxable sales in Bismarck since 1999.
Bismarck restaurateurs said the session provides an extra bump for their establishments.
Dale Zimmerman, the owner of Peacock Alley and 40 Steak & Seafood, said legislators, lobbyists, and politicians often visit his restaurants to “break bread and discuss the politics of the day.” Monday through Thursday dinners increased about 20 percent during the session, according to Zimmerman.
Even basic services experience a boost. Tara Morast, a supervisor for Arrowhead Cleaners just blocks from the Capitol, estimates the store gets business worth $10,000 more when the legislators come to town.
“Every two years, it’s a boost for us,” Morast said.
Sheri Grossman, executive director of the Bismarck-Mandan Convention & Visitors Bureau, attributed visiting lawmakers and people attending conferences arranged to coincide with the session for a 12.3 percent bump in hotel occupancy in January this year compared to January 2018
In 2017, around 43 percent of lawmakers from outside Bismarck-Mandan stayed in hotels and 57 percent rented private homes, according to figures from the Legislative Council. Twenty-one legislators didn’t receive lodging reimbursements since they live locally.
Lawmakers may receive up to $1,682 per month for lodging reimbursement.
Legislative lodging compensations from the 2017 session totaled over $811,000, including estimates of $358,000 for hotels, $423,000 for private rentals and $29,000 in organizational session lodging.
Rep. Steve Vetter rented a home this session and noted there are trade-offs between hotels and home rentals, such as a security deposit.
“But at the same time, I’ve got a heated garage,” Vetter said.