Wisconsin News

Big conference at UW-L brings big money to La Crosse

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Thousands of students from across the country and around the world traveled to University of Wisconsin-La Crosse this past week to showcase their research.

They were in La Crosse for this year's National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

Sruthi Damodar is one of the 3,500 who flocked to UW-L's campus this week to show off her work. She came all the way from the Dominican University of California to showcase her research on breast cancer cells.

"So you wouldn't have tumor progression, tumor survival," she explained to a group of students stopping by her presentation.


But the event wasn't even supposed to be in La Crosse this year.

"We did this in 2009," said UW-L director of undergraduate research Scott Cooper. "But the school that was going to do it this year backed out. And so back in June, we were asked to do it."

"It's very exciting to be able to say, this group was so happy when they were here a few years ago, that they decided this is the community they wanted to come back to when they could have picked any place in the country to go," said Dave Clements, executive director of the La Crosse Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

That's especially true when you count up the cash those 3,500 visitors spent here in La Crosse.

"I'm very comfortable saying it's $1 million-plus," said Clements.

From Thursday through Saturday, conference-goers occupied a total of 6,500 hotel rooms.

Clements estimates the bill for the shuttle buses transporting students to and from those hotels could easily add up to between $5,000 and $10,000.

But the economic impact of the conference could extend far beyond the weekend.

"That's why booking conventions is so important. Not only do you get the piece of business from the convention, but you introduce people who maybe otherwise wouldn't be here to come back," said Clements.

That is, if the weather doesn't scare them off.

"It's gorgeous. Very cold," said Damodar. "Very, very cold."

Clements said successfully hosting conferences like this one helps La Crosse attract even more conferences, because it shows the city has a good track record.

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