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Robotics state championships giving Saginaw Co. businesses much needed boost

Dozens of high schools from across the mitten are in mid-Michigan for a massive robotics tournament.
Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 4:18 PM EDT
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SAGINAW, Mich. (WNEM) - Dozens of high schools from across the mitten are in mid-Michigan for a massive robotics tournament.

Not only are all these students showing off their technological skills, but they are also helping generate thousands of dollars for local businesses.

The FIRST Robotics State Championships are happening this weekend at Saginaw Valley State University.

Alex Merchant co-owns the Culver’s just a short drive away from SVSU.

“Business has been insane. It’s helping having an extra 5, 10,000 people in Saginaw.”

Merchant said the Thursday dinner rush was busier than normal.

“I think competition ended about 6:30, 7 p.m., and as soon as that ended, we were getting full teams coming in. And we were getting call-in orders for teams too, so it just really helps us out,” Merchant said.

Joy Andres is in town from Howell to support her son in the competition. She is glad to be part of the economic boost to the area.

“It’s going to make a big impact on your community when we come here to compete. So, it’s pretty exciting being here, yeah, it’s amazing,” Andres said.

Andres said the teams and their supporters spend 12 hours a day at SVSU. She said dinner in the community afterwards has been pleasant thanks to good service times.

“By the time you’re eating dinner at 8:30, 9:00 at night, you’re pretty tired and it’s like hard to wait. And you want to get to bed in time for a whole day of robotics the next day,” Andres said.

As for Merchant, he is anticipating more big crowds.

“We’re probably expecting a record day today. With it being Good Friday, and the extra people in Saginaw, it’s going to be a good day,” Merchant said.

Other restaurants and hotels said they have seen increased business.

According to the Great Lakes Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, at least $1 million in economic impact will be tied to the competition.