There has been considerable media attention to the church opposition to the Clearwater Aquarium development on the site right behind the Fort Harrison. Fox News weighed in. Then the Tampa Bay Times and then the TBT wrote an editorial.
The church cites a Florida State University (FSU) study showing the economic impact they have in the local community and somehow “reason” that the Aquarium would be a bad idea. They also cite to an Urban Land Institute (ULI) study commissioned by the city to puff up their importance (as they said the city and the church should “work together”) though it is a little curious as the ULI were VERY much in favor of the downtown aquarium development.
Frankly, it is hard to imagine ANYTHING that Clearwater could do to help revitalize the downtown, and change it’s image OTHER than highlight this aquarium. The ONLY thing Clearwater is known for apart from being the cult headquarters of scientology is Winter and the aquarium, made famous by the movie Dolphin Tale and its sequel.
One of our Special Correspondents obtained a complete copy of the FSU report which you can see here:
This is a classic piece of scientology hoodwinking. They PAY for a study of their economic impact — based on figures THEY provide, which they insist at the outset are to be kept confidential. The church cherry picks the “surveys” that they helpfully offer to distribute and collect for the people doing the study. Figures are then extrapolated by the research group which are then used by the church to try to convince Clearwater residents what a boon they are to the community “because FSU says so.” I know how this is done, along with Ben Shaw of the church I arranged the first one of these studies to be done by John Qualls, an economist from St. Louis, in 1999, to attempt to salve the open wounds caused by Lisa McPherson’s death.
Thus, if you read the study, you will see some interesting annotations as to the SOURCES of the information they relied on.
In 2013 over 9,000 parishioners visited the Church from around the world for Scientology religious services, many more than once, and for an average 36 days per visit. Additionally, about 10,000 Scientology parishioners currently reside in the Tampa Bay area.
The source for these “facts” is cited as: Personal Communication, Ms. Pat Harney, Church Public Affairs Director, February 4, 2014.
One can assume that the cite to “personal communication” protects this information from being disclosed. Though why the fundamental “facts” upon which the entire study is premised should be “personal communication” is strange in itself. Of course, the reason for this is that these figures are made up. There are not 10,000 scientologists in the local community. But this is what the church has been telling the media for years, so they could not now give figures that are less than that for their “economic study.” And no doubt the “visitors” include all OUTER ORG trainees, who are sent with NO MONEY and spend NO TIME doing anything other than studying 17 hours a day every day.
Though it is also worth noting that FSU mentions: As a point of reference: In 2013, over 950,000 tourists visited the Clearwater area last year. Thus the church’s 9,000 visitors comprise less than 1% of the total visitors to Clearwater (though as you will see, the church attempts to proclaim the massive impact they have with their “influx” of visitors).
They cite all the economic information they got about how much money the church spends to: Personal communication, Ms. Sharey Wang, February 14, 2014. See: www.nsbn.com NSBN is the long time CSI accounting firm on Los Angeles formerly known as Nanas Sterns. Why THIS information is “personal” is more than a little strange. An accounting firm sending information at the request of the church to a public university paid to do a study that then becomes the subject of a massive PR campaign by the church is hardly “personal.”
Even worse than this, they based their extrapolations on “surveys” the church provided:
For the visitors survey, there were a total of 9,148 visitors to the Church in 2013, with 265 surveys collected.
For the residents survey, there were a total of 9,763 Church residents in the area, with 271 surveys collected.
The surveys were NOT random but were carefully screened before being turned over. With 18,911 people under their direct control, it is impossible they could not come up with a better statistical sampling than 527 (about 2.7%). If the church told everyone to fill out a survey, they would have had about 50% of the local scientologists turn them in and 75% of all “visitors.” And those are conservative figures. Clearly FSU did NOT understand the amount of control the church exerts over its members.
And for the local businesses, the information was even more suspect:
In 2013, there were approximately 262 businesses owned by Scientologists in Clearwater and immediate surroundings and Clearwater neighboring communities.
While the Church contacted the majority of businesses for the purpose of collecting data on business demographics and expenditures, only 33 Scientologist-owned businesses provided responses to the survey.
The initial Church business list was based on a Church business association directory, provided by Ms. Pat Harney, Public Affairs Director, Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization.
The Church provided a list of 262 unique businesses derived from several Church business association lists.\
No surprise. FSU accepted EVERYTHING FROM THE CHURCH.
If you look at the study itself, it tells you the story at a glance — it LOOKS like a church promo piece, with pages of glamour shots of “Flag.” And the reason they only got 33 survey responses is that this is ALL THE CHURCH COULD FIND that were “suitable” for the study. There are not 262 scientology owned businesses in Clearwater. There are not even 100. Unless you count things like “self-employed” artist as a business. Or side of the road rug sales on the weekends as a business.
And thus, the conclusions from this study are skewed beyond any recognition.
FSU should be embarrassed to have been suckered so badly by the church. This should serve as a case study on how to do such a study wrongly.
But of course, as was the intention at the outset, the study then became the subject of a 50 page Freedom magazine, shouting the importance and value of scientology in Clearwater, based on the “FSU study.” You can find the magazine here.
This entire magazine is a puff piece that proclaims the good fortune for the City of Clearwater that they have been embraced by the church of scientology.
I have excerpted some passages from the magazine (in italics) below, starting with their self-congratulatory “editorial” — now citing the figures THEY gave to FSU to extrapolate as the “FSU study findings.”
The roughly 13,000 Scientologists who live in the Tampa Bay area and the 9,000 plus and growing Church members who visit each year are part of the rich weave that is the fabric of life in Clearwater and throughout the Tampa Bay area.
The last seven years have seen phenomenal expansion of Scientology—across the globe and in Clearwater. About 2,300 staff members now work at Flag, and over 10,000 parishioners are full-time residents in the area. More than 9,000 Scientologists—from Europe, Asia, South and Central America, Africa, Australia, and across the United States, Canada and Mexico—traveled to Clearwater in 2013 for stays generally much longer than normal tourism; the number of visitors is accelerating.
Those recent numbers were the backbone of a study completed in July 2014 by the Florida State University Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis (CEFA). In looking at such economic impact reports, it’s natural to zero in on the big numbers, and CEFA amply documented those:
The total 2013 economic impact of the Church of Scientology in Clearwater and surrounding areas was $917 million. The Church is financially the single largest private presence in Clearwater.
The Church annually sustains 7,514 jobs in the area. Those are good jobs, producing annual payrolls of about $338 million, or about $45,000 per job.
Underscoring the economic study is another report that zeros in on downtown Clearwater. The Urban Land Institute, based in Washington, D.C., took a hard look at Clearwater during the summer and released its final report in September. “The Church of Scientology can assist the City in a number of ways,” the ULI report stated. Noting that it’s imperative for the City to create a master plan, ULI commented: “By participating in the implementation of the revised downtown redevelopment, the Church of Scientology will help the City make informed decisions. …This will lead to better outcomes for all downtown stakeholders.”
Still, what if the Church left? The CEFA report didn’t calculate that, but two 2007 economic impact studies made the point. Benecke Economics stated: “If the Church were to unplug, or disinvest, in the City of Clearwater it would cause irreparable damage to the city.” And Micro Economics Ltd. reported that if the Church left “the depressed area activity would tend to feed upon itself, resulting in a downward spiral of economic decay” similar to “many ‘rust belt’ cities in the industrial Midwest.”
The Church came, built, invested and flourished—and created jobs and prosperity throughout the area. Had the Church never arrived, or had left, no one could have filled the economic vacuum. One of the best qualities of an institutional presence in a community is stability. That’s a huge, solid rock for prosperity for the whole community. This issue of Freedom documents the numbers, true. But articles put faces on those numbers—stories about the work and accomplishments of the many Scientologists who are your neighbors in Clearwater.
The Church of Scientology offers its strength and growth as a gift to the community. Clearwater is the winner.
— The Editors
There is a lot more interesting information buried in the turgid prose:
THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY’S ANNUAL economic impact on the Clearwater area is almost $1 billion, according to a new study conducted by Florida State University’s Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis (CEFA).
The financial analysis provides the most authoritative insight to date on both the Church itself as well as statistics associated with about 23,000 Scientologists who live in the Tampa Bay area or visited the Church in Clearwater in the last year.
You may recall there were, according to Pat Harney, 9700 local scientology residents. Plus there are, according to the church, 2300 staff. That somehow equates to 13,000 in scientology math. Then add to that the 9100 visitors and that of course now totals 23,000. None of these figures are accurate, but they cannot just add them up right to come to 21,000, instead everything is “rounded up” to add a couple of thousand.
But as you can see, the “authoritative analysis” provided by the “statistics” is now attributed to the Florida State University’s Center for Economic Forecasting — the patsies in this puppet show.
The Church has commissioned similar reports in the past—most recently in 2007. But with the inauguration of the Scientology cathedral, the Flag Building, in November 2013, the Church has entered a new phase of international expansion. That prompted Church leaders to seek a new and far more comprehensive analysis, and thus they commissioned FSU’s team of economists.
As amply documented in the CEFA study, the annual impact of the Church is enormous: $916,692,624 in 2013.
Like most institutions—say, hospitals and colleges—much of the Church’s financial impact is dedicated to supporting its own programs. But those programs involve thousands of people coming to the Church for spiritual guidance and who reside and work in the greater Tampa Bay area.
That section in red is VERY significant.
The revenues of FLAG are between $150 and $200 million a year — being sucked OUT of the local economy (as the vast majority of this is sent to California and is NOT invested in the local community). The IAS is about $50 million a year from Clearwater, also being sucked OUT of the economy and ALL OF IT sent to California. These are figures NOT mentioned at all in the report.
Economists from Florida State University examined massive amounts of financial records, along with surveys and interviews, to profile the impact of the Church of Scientology and its members in Clearwater, Florida.
Businesses created by Scientologists have revenues of $287,919,612, money that is used to hire employees, and purchase materials and expertise.
This is really a sad joke. It was probably arrived at by taking Postcard Mania, the Delphi Academy and Clearwater Academy, NTC and MGE as 5 “typical” scientology businesses and rounding up a few others to fill out the surveys and then multiplying it to reach the total revenue of 262 businesses (or the church now calls this “300”). But even though this is clearly contrived (only being able to survey 33 businesses TOTAL), let’s put this figure in context.
The revenues of FLAG are between 150 and 200 million a year — being sucked OUT of the local economy (as it is all sent to California). The IAS is about $50 million a year from Clearwater, also being sucked OUT of the economy and sent to California.
And another way of looking at it. The US average revenue of a car dealership is $38.3 million. This means the total revenue of the “300” scientology businesses that are owned by the 9700 local scientologists is equivalent to 7.5 average car dealers.
Scientologists annually contribute $87,867,000 to charitable endeavors, money that uplifts the quality of life in Clearwater.
This one is a doozie. Now it makes it appear that the “charitable donations” of $87 million “uplift the quality of life in Clearwater” — when those “charitable donations” virtually ALL went to “scientology causes”.
Someone should have shown the FSU people the list of Super Power and IAS donations because that is where the $87 million went. Virtually every penny of it. And NONE of that was channeled into the local community.
The specific figures they offer in the report are that they have held 81 “fundraising events” for local charities since the reopening of the Ft Harrison Hotel (2009) and raised $82,000. That is $16,000 a YEAR to local charities. If they collected only $16,000 in a DAY for the IAS, head would be rolling. $16,000 out of $87,000,000 is less than o.o2%.
And FSU cites as their “Examples of Community Service”, handing out church anti-drug literature and “human rights” literature.
Nothing like a little self-serving “community service.”
Put another way, the Church and its members create and support 7,514 jobs each year in the Tampa Bay area—providing paychecks to families that total $337,795,577. And those are good jobs—on average about $45,000 a year, according to the FSU economists.
No, that is actually according to the CHURCH, who provided ALL the figures the entire extrapolation was based on.
The CEFA report itemizes the assets Scientologists bring to Clearwater. It’s an affluent group, with a median income of $63,675, much of which is the underpinning for businesses, schools, charities and entertainment in the area. Church residents spend $100,344,512 annually on housing, $57,906,206 on household expenses, $39,544,304 on shopping.
When you cherry pick the “survey” responses, this is what you get. Total manipulation.
Scientology’s total annual impact on the Tampa Bay area—almost $1 billion—has grown each year in excess of 10 percent.
A VERY far cry from the “47X” and “straight up and vertical” claims made by David Miscavige from the stage at every event and dished out to the media whenever they can get some sort of “response” from the church on any story.
That means stability for the community. When the national real estate recession hammered Florida, the Church from 2007 to 2013 spent $252,260,468 on construction, restoration and renovation projects—meaning a lot of Tampa Bay area companies and their employees found work.
That is an ENORMOUS amount of money, most of which went to OUTSIDE firms — the general contractor on the SP Building was not local. The architects were not local. The furnishings were not purchased locally.And in the last year, this figure has been reduced by a factor of 100. They MAY have spent a few million on the Coachman building, but the amounts spent on construction are negligible now. Though this was a large proportion of the “annual economic impact” the church brings to Clearwater cited in the study. bY the time the study was completed and published, the Coachman had already been completed, and there is NOTHING else happening construction wise.
Freedom then goes on to then arrogantly assert that they actually spend more than the City of Clearwater:
An even more interesting comparison: The Church of Scientology direct expenditures in the Tampa Bay area ($485 million) are almost 30 percent higher than the City’s spending for all its programs ($375 million), according to the municipality’s 2013-14 budget. The two entities have relative parity in financial clout—with the Church apparently having the edge.
This is SO typical of scientology. Now they are MORE important than the City of Clearwater — who of course should be grovelling at the feet of the church…
Referring to the Church’s impact, the FSU economists’ report states: “It is expected that those current numbers will increase given the recent opening of the Flag Building,” the Church’s Clearwater cathedral, on Nov. 17, 2013. There already has been a rapid increase in the number of Scientologist visitors to the city. About 783 Scientologists arrived in June 2014, for example, a significant 14 percent surge from the 685 visitors who arrived in June 2013.
Oh dear. Insignificant to anyone outside the church, but very significant to those who watch the church closely — the SP building has resulted in a “14 percent jump” in business. For $200 million? And David Miscavige proclaims there is 47X expansion?
With the religion’s economic impact growing by about $62 million a year since 2007, according to CEFA, the Church easily will top the $1 billion mark in a matter of months—if it hasn’t done so already.
No, it hasn’t. Remember, no more $250 million on “construction” that is now down to virtually zero?
Here is one of the graphics included in Freedom magazine. Though the FSU study noted that the vast majority of visitors stay in church hotels (and eat in church restaurants), the church now presents this as pumping this money “into the community” somehow. I bet the “shopping” also includes purchases at the “Flag bookstore”
Of course, this would not be an authentic church publication without some pontificating from Dear Leader:
David Miscavige, the Church’s ecclesiastical leader, expresses a clear certainty about the future of both the Church and the city:
“Over the past two decades, the Church has proven its dedication to improving Clearwater. Our commitment is demonstrated in our Church facilities, which are emblems of beauty for the entire city. We are also relentless in our passion to contribute and improve our environment, as evidenced by the recent construction of a public walking park on Fort Harrison Avenue.
“The past seven years have seen the completion of massive Church development projects. On every construction project, we have strived to hire local industry so that the Tampa Bay area economy benefits from our expansion. We further support and work with a diverse range of benevolent and humanitarian organizations. And, our parishioners are dedicated to a multitude of volunteer and charity initiatives that uplift the quality of life for all citizens.
One lie piled on top of another.
In truth, EVERYTHING to “improve Clearwater” is only for the purpose of forwarding the church’s aims.
The buildings are beautiful. But they are NOT designed for the well-being of Clearwater — hell, residents cannot even go into them!
Wander through the “walking park” (that is actually to allow access between the Oak Cove and the SP building without having to go through the lobby of the Ft Harrison) and you will be on camera and if you are there too long, will be approached by a security guard asking you what you are doing.
And it is simply not true that they have strived to hire local industry for their construction.
The volunteer and charity activities in the local area are strictly for the purpose of gaining PR for the church, and in any event, if it IS really true that there are 23,000 scientologists in the local community at any given time (about 20% of the TOTAL population of Clearwater) why isn’t there a LOT more visible and documentable good work and evidence of the enormous charitable generosity in the community?
“The Church’s foundation in Clearwater is a solid and enduring resource for the community,” Mr. Miscavige concluded, “and we remain dedicated to a constructive and cooperative relationship with the city, so that we may work together in creating a flourishing and prospering Clearwater for the benefit of all citizens.”
Remember, this is the same guy who ordered trees chopped down in violation of city ordinances and puts up signs on his tent in violation of other ordinances and refused to remove them.
A “cooperative relationship” in his estimation is when the city acquiesces to what he wants. Period.
All you need to do to confirm for yourself that this study and Freedom‘s proclamations are utter bullshit is simply use your own eyes.
Walk through Clearwater. It’s a corpse. And by opposing the Aquarium, scientology wants to keep it that way.