The promotion of a social and solidarity economy on a Greek and European level as a tool for fostering a common perception of Europe was the subject of a four-day workshop hosted at Agia, Thessaly, in central Greece, between June 3-6.

The workshops were carried out within the framework of FOCUS, a European project designed to highlight the important role of social economy in enhancing European citizenship.

On Friday June 3, Theodora Patsiavoudi, general secretary of European programs at Agia, made a presentation of the municipality. Deputy regional governor of Thessaly Constantinos Noussios presented an overview of the EU-funded programs carried out in the region. Charalambos Samantzis of the University of Thessaly career office gave an overview of the institution.

Lia Gkountroumpi, of the Directorate of Operational Planning at the Municipality of Larissa, discussed the prospects and difficulties of participating in European projects. Nikos Dagas presented the actions of the Chamber of Larissa, while Sevasti Basdeki discussed the work of Development Company of Larissa (AENOL SA).

Representatives of Estonia (Local Action Group-East Harju Partnership, Local Action Group- Western Harju Partnership), Portugal (EcoSol-CES), Croatia (Udruga za otocni razvoj Brac), France (Les 7 vents), Italy (CESV Organisation, Forum del Terzo Settore Lazio), and Spain (Provincial Government of Teruel - ASAPME Teruel, Provincial Government of Teruel - ATADI org), offered a snapshot of their actions, at Hotel Golden Beach, on Saturday June 4.

On the same day, a workshop on Development areas of social entrepreneurship and positive EU skepticism took place at the cultural conference center Chrysalida, in Agia. The workshop was attended by economist and social entrepreneur Elena Panaritis and University of Athens professor Panagiotis Karkatsoulis.

Drawing from their experience in Greece and abroad, the speakers discussed a strategy, the necessary institutional framework, and the challenges for the development of a social economy, while emphasizing its key role in social well-being. Vassilis Taktikos, coordinator of the Hellenic Observatory of Civil Society Organizations, also shared his ideas on social entrepreneurship in Greece.

Meanwhile, guests had a chance to visit a number of villages in the area (Metaxohori, Omolio, Kokino Nero, Velika), the city of Larissa, several archaeological sites, and to get a taste of local culture (Cherry Festival, Hot Springs, the castle of Velika).

The event came to a close on Monday, June 6 with a workshop on good social business practices, on a national and European level. The day started with a presentation of the actions taken by the Municipality of Strumyani in Bulgaria and the Municipality of Naxxar in Malta. That was followed by a presentation of the work by social cooperative enterprise Mentors made by its chairman, George Arsenis. A presentation of the Olympus-Kissavos Tourism (OLKIS) network was followed by a seminar on Producer groups: Charting the future of Greek agriculture by Dinos Bliatsios. The day ended with a presentation by Stavroula Sdrolia, director of Antiquities Ephorate of Larissa.

The project FOCUS Stimulating new forms of active civic participation through focus on Social and Solidarity Economy, is being implemented under the European Program Europe for citizens.

The project is financed exclusively by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) of the European Commission.



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Fan Fest 2014 (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

Paul Dallenbach knows how to budget for his annual trip to Manitou Springs.

His experience has taught him that Suzie Malec is going to hold five rooms for his team at the Comfort Inn, running about $100 per night for six nights. He can accurately predict what it takes to feed his crew and himself. And, as a three-time overall winner of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, he can guess what hell have to spend on his car.

The vast majority of that money is spent locally in the Colorado Springs area.

It should be good for the economy, I would think, said Dallenbach, who sleeps in his RV at the Garden of the Gods campground each year.

Dallenbach plans to spend $25,000 each year simply on car-related expenses ranging from fuel to tires to parts and labor. That doesnt include roughly $10,000 hes budgeted in some years for hotels and meals for his crew, a figure that has dropped now that the Basalt resident has switched to a Colorado Springs-based team.

Rooms fill up, you have to get them early, the veteran said.

According to projections from Summit Economics, there will be 21,492 total visitor nights spent in the area this year related to the race. Those will be nearly equally split between competitors and their teams and fans. Another 600 or so will belong to visiting media.

Those projections came from a 2013 study that found $6.6 million in direct sales resulted from the Hill Climb that led to more than $500,000 in city, county and state tax revenue. The study highlighted the economic and fiscal impact felt by spending from race teams and fans as well as local spending to hold the event.

From the long stays for teams (most stay at least six days) to ticket prices (those bought on race day range from $35 to $70) to entry fees for teams ($1,500 this year, up $100 from 2015), theres seemingly nothing cheap when it comes to the Hill Climb.

There is no other race course in the world like The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, the event boasts on its website. That is why it attracts race crews that are willing to spend several hundred thousand dollars and months of preparation to compete for the right to be the King of the Mountain.

Actual expenditures vary, with those traveling the greatest distances obviously taking the biggest hit. Some racers have spotted teams from Japan with around 20 members. Last year Sheik Khalid bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar rented The Broadmoors Cloud Camp before driving his Porsche up Americas Mountain.

The opposite side of the spectrum are the local motorcycle competitors who can make their runs for limited costs.

Most fall somewhere in the middle, with expenses skyrocketing for unexpected events like catastrophic breakdowns or crashes.

The money adds up, and it is expected to grow.

By 2022, the race is projected to bring 22,900 out-of-town visitor nights to the area and result in $7.5 million in direct sales.



When is a booming economy bad news? When its an economy structured like Californias.

In a new study making the rounds, when the personal-finance website WalletHub fed the Golden State to its experts, they spit out great numbers top-five-in-the-nation rankings for high-tech job growth, fast-growing firms, and, yes, startup activity. All told, the site concluded, Californians enjoy the nations third-best economy.

California has blossomed into the seventh-largest economy in the world, the experts cheered, boasting a [gross doemstic product] of $2.3 trillion, which was comparable to Brazils $2.2 trillion, in 2014.

On the face of it, thats news everyone can enthuse over. But for Democrats, it offers a special set of prized talking points. Californias one-party state is a very important test case for a fundamental economic promise: that Big Government can deliver a big economy. It looks like conservative arguments that the state stifles business through taxes and regulation arent holding water, as the LA Weekly put it.

Sure enough, something different is going on. But even though it requires a closer look, it isnt hard to see. In fact, the reality of Californias political economy has been captured in a single statistical snapshot content and usage patterns on YouTube.

As we all know, YouTube is a Google property and a huge symbol (right down to its name) of the democratizing power of the internet. With YouTube, perhaps even more than any other platform, everyone can become a content creator. In the face of that sweeping promise, and all the promises of significance, exposure, fame and raw entertainment that come along with it, Americans signed on in droves pushing YouTubes audience to heights that lead some analysts to conclude it will eventually eclipse the viewership of traditional media companies.

One such analyst, Carlos Kirjner at Bernstein Research, recently crunched the numbers on the ways all those people consume all that stuff. What he found feels obvious in hindsight, but it still gives tremendous pause.

Content and usage seem to be relatively concentrated across several dimensions, Kirjner found. 1 percent of YouTube videos correspond to 93 percent of views since inception; 94 percent of viewing time (since inception) is also concentrated in about 1 percent of the videos in the library. Similar patterns of concentration, he observed, have developed across genres.

At first blush, these numbers harshly indict the promise of the internets democratized economy. The literal 1 percent are massively dominant, with almost everyone else pushed far to the margins. But on reflection, the situation is even less flattering to our prejudices.

YouTubes numbers dramatically show that democratization itself is responsible for the dominance of the 1 percent. In an economic ecosystem stuffed with so much trivia, amateurism and sheer noise, people gravitate en masse to the best, most popular content. Nobody has time to discover diamonds in the rough and hidden gems especially not when the most immediate and accessible of the best content is right at their fingertips, and right on the lips of everyone in their neighborhood, in their workplace, and in the media.

Its a phenomenon thats hardly restricted to YouTube. Across all fields of human endeavor, the same patterns are playing out. Just as theres only one YouTube, theres only one LiveNation, only one Amazon, only one HBO, only one Apple. Sure, theres often a big second-fiddle option for those who insist on alternatives for alternatives sake Samsung, Pepsi, whatever. But the theme of the post-internet economy is that 1-percenter dominance results from a deeper equality, consumers who are all pretty much the same rejecting oceans of insignificant choices in favor of the consensus biggest and best.

This is where Californias political significance comes in. The state is almost a real-life reproduction of the logic of the commercialized internet: uniform ideas, preferences and habits have produced one dominant political party that encourages and rewards market dominance. But state Democrats have a powerful incentive to turn the pattern into a policy platform. If Big Government allows a tiny elite to pursue parabolic growth, it can keep even an otherwise restrictive and hobbled economy afloat. And it wont matter how much the middle class contracts, the lower class expands or small entrepreneurs and laborers struggle for purchase for a while, anyway.

California and Democrats being as they are, if Sacramento can prove this concept well enough to sell it to Americans already conceptually primed to embrace it, you can bet that leading national Democrats will want to give it the same trendy bellwether status as everything else Californians do. Holdouts for the old ways will simply obsolesce including figures like Gov. Jerry Brown, who has had to fight tooth and nail to hedge the state budget against structural bubbles.

For Big Government blue state liberalism, California promises a new twist and lease on life: If society is now so equal that shared tastes inevitably run toward the dominant 1 percent of products, top-shelf policymakers will be given a free hand if they clear the field for elite producers even if their policies run sharply against the deeper interests of societys lower tiers.

Luckily for proponents of this new model, todays many populists seem unable to rally together against it. But in a final twist that any Silicon Valley denizen could ruefully appreciate, the more the model scales nationally, the more the resistance against it is likely to scale, too.



The economic impact of University of Tennessee sports sometimes can be taken for granted a part of the landscape like the Great Smoky Mountains but a consultants study released last week shows the Big Orange produces some serious green.

The study, conducted by the Pittsburgh-based consulting firm Tripp Umbach, found UT sports has an economic impact of $618 million a year on Knox County and $464 million on the state of Tennessee.

While the numbers appear at first glance to be nonsensical, there is a valid reason the figure for the county is higher than the figure for the state as a whole. The firm counted dollars that come from outside the area studied, so the Knox County figure includes money coming in from other parts of Tennessee as well as out-of-state money. Only out-of-state money is used for the statewide figure.

The study cost the UT Athletic Department $74,000 and provides an opportunity to gauge and appreciate the economic impact of Volunteer sports on the state and the local community.

As they say in the tourism business, the UT Athletic Department, especially the football program, puts heads in beds. The result is $74 million generated each year by Knox County hotels and motels. The study did not break out other counties, but lodging is tough to come by in the surrounding area when the Vols play in Neyland Stadium. Other sectors reap the benefits as well the annual impact is $52 million in retail food and beverage and $30 million in limited service restaurants.

As would be expected, football has the most impact of any sport, injecting $355.7 million into the Knox County economy. Visitor spending accounts for $292.1 million. On an average football game weekend, 70 percent of the fans will come from outside Knox County, and their impact on the local economy will be $41.7 million.

Mens basketball comes in second at $108.4 million, while the Lady Vols basketball team generates $42.6 million.

The study also found athletics at UT supports 6,500 jobs in Knox County 4,310 directly and 2,190 indirectly. In addition to hotel and restaurant employees, jobs are created in stores selling clothing and accessories, personal services, transportation and even real estate.

State and local governments receive $26.8 million in tax revenues each year, plus $1.8 million in amusement tax payments from football and mens basketball ticket sales.

The study also conducted surveys to develop fan profiles. Most football and mens basketball fans come from outside Knox County, while Lady Vols fans tend to live inside the county. Fans from outside the state spend $308 every day they are in town for a football game.

The fans have disposable income to spend. The annual household income for the typical Lady Vols fan is $70,000 to $89,999. The typical Tennessee football fans household earns more than $100,000 a year. In comparison, the median household income in Tennessee is $44,621.

The study examined the impact of all sports, not just the big three. Collectively, their economic impact on Knox County is $61.8 million a year.

The report did not neglect the intangible benefits, citing sports as a way to unify UT alumni, faculty staff and students; provide community service opportunities for student-athletes; enhance the student experience; spur private-sector development; promote the university, the city of Knoxville, Knox County and the state; and more.

Of course, for UT fans the biggest intangible benefit is beating Florida, Alabama, Kentucky and any other opponent in just about any sport. Bragging rights have value, too.

Big Orange fans rejoice when UT wins, but even on the occasions the Vols come up short on the scoreboard, Knox County businesses emerge victorious.