Comic-Con International agrees to stay the course in San Diego until 2018
Comic conventions are no longer small fringe events for a handful of diehard fans: today it’s a multi-million dollar industry, and the king of all conventions is San Diego Comic-Con. Originally attended by a couple hundred mostly local pop culture fans in downtown San Diego’s U.S. Grant Hotel, today Comic-Con sells out in minutes and hosts more than 130,000 attendees in events that have sprawled well beyond its 460,000 square foot home at the San Diego Convention Center.
This sprawl, especially over the last decade as San Diego Comic-Con has exponentially exploded in popularity and attendance, has led to a lot of debate over whether the convention has outgrown its waterfront hometown. For years, the convention’s parent company Comic-Con International (CCI) has been considering the option of moving the rapidly growing event to another location, especially if San Diego fails to expand its convention center in the very near future. Anaheim and Los Angeles have both expressed interest in the convention, and Las Vegas has also been passed through the rumor mill as a potential successor. WonderCon’s recent confirmation that it is leaving Anaheim for Los Angeles in 2016 only cements that such moves are a very real possibility.
This would not be ideal for the city of San Diego. Last year the San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) released a study finding that San Diego Comic-Con has “a significant economic impact on the San Diego regional economy,” bringing in $160-180 million for the city each year and providing an estimated $320,000 in wages between the convention center’s staff of 500-plus employees and temporary jobs filled by engineers, laborers, electricians, and International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union workers. As a press release from the convention points out, this study does not take into account the spending done by out-of-town visitors, non-badge holders, and events like advertising and restaurant buyouts—in short, the real financial benefit to San Diego could be significantly higher. While some other reports argue that the benefit could be lower due to possible flaws in the SDWP study, the study’s leader counters with the fact that there are far more attendees (especially out-of-town attendees) now than in the years from which he pulled his data.
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Regardless is undeniable that the convention is a moneymaker, and losing it would be a financial blow to the city. It would also be damaging to the city’s morale—the San Diego Union-Tribune recently pitted the city’s two most defining pop culture points against each other, polling readers on whether they’d rather keep San Diego Comic-Con or the San Diego Chargers in the city. Nearly 60 percent of voters chose Comic-Con.
For now, Comic-Con International also chose San Diego. The convention is here to stay—at least for a little while longer. Last week San Diego’s Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced that, after months of negotiations, CCI has signed a deal to keep the convention in San Diego at least through 2018.
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Of course, that’s only three years away and questions of the convention’s permanence will start to come into play well before then. At that point, once again the biggest question will be: will the benefits of leaving San Diego outweigh the benefits of staying?
Clearly for San Diego, keeping CCI in town would be a massive benefit. “If you still don’t understand how much Comic-Con means to San Diego,” said Mayor Faulconer during the press conference to announce the 2018 extension, “more Superman means more super-streets, more light sabers means more library hours, and more Comic-Con means more neighborhood services for San Diegans.” Surely there are also benefits for CCI in being able to maintain its current floor plans and relationships to keep the convention on course where it is. So the city and CCI will likely be working hard to extend Comic-Con’s stay beyond 2018.
That work will be crucial, because if things don’t change—specifically, if the San Diego Convention Center doesn’t start expanding, or the convention itself doesn’t find a more efficient way to spread its events around and increase accessibility—CCI may eventually have no choice but to look outside of San Diego in the future. Longtime Comic-Con attendees cannot ignore the way that the convention has changed over the last few years and the problems that have arisen, from overcrowding issues to the untenable frustration of simply obtaining a badge. San Diego may be Comic-Con’s origin story and roots, but there’s no question that larger cities with larger convention centers and more adjacent hotels and amenities—cities like Las Vegas or Los Angeles—have a lot to offer in the future if San Diego can no longer deliver.
Comic-Con has grown, and the city needs to grow with it. But if the city is able to make progress on that development, hopefully it will be able to secure the future of its pop culture hub—and its own successful future as well.
Six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda
New Deloitte research reveals that tax leaders are under increasing pressure to add strategic value as companies accelerate business model transformation, from undergoing digital transformations to rethinking their supply chains or investing in green initiatives.
According to Phil Mills, Deloitte Global Tax & Legal Leader, to “truly deliver value to the business, the tax function needs to rethink its resourcing model and transform its technology infrastructure to create capacity and control costs”.
And the good news, according to Mills, is that tax and business leaders have more options at their disposal to achieve this.
Reflecting the insights of global tax and finance executives at global companies, Deloitte’s Tax Operations in Focus study reveals the six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda.
Trend 1: Businesses seek more strategic counsel from tax
Companies are being pushed to develop new digital products and distribution channels and accelerate sustainable transformation and this is taking them into uncharted tax territory. Tax leaders say their teams must have the resources and skills to give deeper advisory support on digital business models (65%), supply chain restructuring (49%) and sustainability (48%) over the next two years. This means redrawing the boundaries of what tax professionals focus on, and accelerating adoption of advanced technologies and lower-cost resourcing models to meet compliance requirements and free up time.
According to Joanne Walker, Group Tax Director, BT Group PLC, "There’s still a heavy compliance load today, but the vision for the future would be that much of that falls away, and tax people become subject matter experts who help program the machine, ensure quality control, and redirect their time to advisory activity.”
Trend 2: Tipping point for resourcing models
Business partnering demands in the tax department are on the rise, but 93% of tax leaders say their department’s budget is remaining flat or falling. To ensure that the tax function can redefine itself as a strategic function at the pace that is required, leaders are choosing to move increasing amounts of compliance and reporting to a combination of shared service centers, finance departments, and outsourcing providers that have invested in best-in-class technology.
Trend 3: Digital tax administration is moving faster than expected
in addition to the rising focus of the corporate tax department partnering with their business counterparts, transformative changes to the way companies share tax information with revenue authorities is also creating an imperative to modernize operations at a faster pace. Nine in 10 (92%) respondents say that shifting revenue authority demands on digital tax administration will have a moderate or high impact on tax operations and resources over the next five years—and several heads of tax said the trend is moving faster than expected.
"It’s really stepped up in the last couple of years," says Anna Elphick, VP Tax, Unilever. "Tax authorities don't just want a faster turnaround for compliance but access into a company’s systems. It's not unreasonable to think that in a much shorter time than we expect, compliance will be about companies reviewing a return that's been drafted by the tax authorities."
Trend 4: Data simplification and lower-cost resourcing are top priorities
Tax leaders said that simplifying data management (53%) and moving to lower-cost resourcing models (51%) must be prioritized if tax is to become more proactive at delivering strategic insights to the business. Many tax teams are ensuring that they have a seat at the table as ERP systems are overhauled, which is paying dividends: 56% of those that have introduced NextGen ERP systems are now highly effective at supporting the business with scenario-modeling insights. Only 35% of those with moderate to low use of NextGen ERP systems said the same.
At Stryker, “we automated the source P&L process for transfer pricing which took a huge burden off of the divisions," says David Furgason, Vice President Tax. "Then we created a transfer price database to deposit and retrieve data so we have limited impact on the divisions. We are moving to a single ERP platform which will help us make take the next step with robotics.”
Trend 5: Skillsets are shifting
Embedding a new data infrastructure and redesigning processes are critical for the future tax vision. Tax leaders are aligned — data skills (45%) and technology process experience (43%) are ‘must have’ skills in a tax department of the future, but more traditional tax specialist knowledge also remains key (40%). The trick to success will be in tax leaders facilitating the way these professionals, with their different backgrounds, can work together collectively to unlock lasting value.
Take Infineon Technologies, which formed a VAT technology and governance group "that has the right knowledge about how to change the system to ensure it generates the right reports", according to Matthias Schubert, Global Head of Tax. "Involving them early was key as we took a greenfield approach, so we could think about what the optimal processes would look like and how more intelligent systems could make an impact
Trend 6: 2020 brought productivity improvements
Improved productivity (50%) and accelerating shifts to remote working (48%) were cited as the biggest operational benefits to emerge from COVID-19-driven disruption. But, as 78% of leaders now plan to embed either hybrid or fully remote models in the tax function long term, 34% say maintaining productivity benefits is a top concern. And, as leaders think about building their talent pipeline and strengthening advisory skill sets, 47% say they must prioritize new approaches to talent recognition and career development over the next two years, while 36% say new processes for involving tax in business strategy decisions must be established.