Economic Impact Analysis of Shawano Lake

Economic Impact Analysis of Shawano Lake

 University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Department of Economics
 Produced by Public Sector Economics (EC 403), Spring 2022

 Mitchell Bradford (Introduction)
Cameran Crawford (Hotel/Accommodation Spending)
Blane Davis (Hotel/Accommodation Spending)
Brandon Hanes (Spending by Anglers)
Brennan Hoem (Spending by Secondary Homeowners)
Matt Kolb (Spending by Campers)
Kenneth Ohene-Adu (Spending by Boaters)
Alison Schmitt (Restaurant and Bar Spending)
Jasmine Washington (Estimating the Value from Lakefront Property)
Jake Zajkowski (Estimating the Value from Lakefront Property)
Supervised by Dr. Marianne Johnson, Distinguished Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, College of Business, UW Oshkosh

For questions or comments, please contact

We would like to thank Peter Tillman, Jeff Sache, Keith Marquardt, Jeff Brunson, Doug Engel, David Zelinger, Jeff Anderson, Matt Hendricks, and Nancy Smith for their invaluable help. Errors are, of course, our own.

Executive Summary

Shawano Lake in Northeastern Wisconsin makes significant contributions to local economic vitality. With 8 public boat landings, a public beach, 14 walk-in locations, and more than 250 parking spaces for boat trailers, the lake is easily accessed by Shawano residents and tourists. A local public good, the lake supports a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities, including fishing, boating, and camping.

To establish the economic impact of Shawano Lake, we estimate direct spending on lake-related activities. We also consider the local economic impact of those who own second homes or cabins on the lake. Last, we estimate the impact that lake frontage has on property values and property taxes.

In 2021, total direct and indirect lake spending contributed more than $29 million to the local economy. The previous year, lake use accounted for 46% of total tourism spending in Shawano County. Direct tourism spending is augmented by second-home owner spending in the community. While the impact of the changing residential patterns around the lake, driven by a significant increase in out-of-state buyers, is difficult to quantify, we estimate these homeowners contribute an additional $3.58 million to the local economy. Further, lake frontage adds approximately $220,000 to the assessed value of a home – or more than $179 million in additional home value for property owners. This translates into nearly $6 million in additional property tax revenue each year.

 In addition to direct private sector market-based contributions of non-local visitor spending to regional businesses and their spinoff multiplier, the lake provides eco-system and natural benefits that accrue to those in proximity of the lake. Perhaps the largest is the role the lake plays as a conduit for outdoor recreation. The lake’s playgrounds, beaches, picnic spaces, public docks, boating facilities, and walking and biking trails all contribute significantly to the health and wellness of community members. While difficult to measure, these benefits are nonetheless of vital importance.

 Estimated Economic Impact of Shawano Lake






Total Direct and Indirect Spending by Lake Visitors




Restaurants & Bars








































Total Direct and Indirect Spending by Second Homeowners





Estimated Increase in Property Values Attributable to Lake Frontage





Additional Property Tax Revenues Attributable to Lake Frontage










Total Impact (excluding the increase in home values attributable to lake frontage)





Economic Impact Analysis Shawano Lake

1. Introduction to Shawano Lake
        Located in Northeast Wisconsin, Shawano Lake is comprised of 6215 acres or 9.65 square miles. The lake has a mean depth of 9 feet and a maximum depth of 39.5 feet. An assessment of the water quality of Shawano Lake was recently completed as a part of a comprehensive lake management plan formulated by the Shawano Area Waterways Management. The assessment examined three main factors: phosphorus, chlorophyll-α, and secchi disk transparency. It also compared Shawano Lake to other similar lakes in the region (Heath et al., 12). Based on samples from 1999 - 2019, the phosphorus and chlorophyll-α averages indicate that Shawano Lake rates as “good” for shallow drainage lakes in Wisconsin (Heath et al., 18 - 19). Water clarity is indicated by an average of the secchi disk transparency. Based on samples from 1993 - 2019, Shawano Lake was found to be “excellent” (Heath et al., 20).

The classification of a lake is based on both water flow and water depth. Shawano Lake is a shallow lowland drainage lake (Heath et al., 16). It is connected to one major outlet, which is the Wolf River. Additionally notable is that the lake has 18.33 miles of main shoreline but just 0.37 miles of island shoreline. Furthermore, the lake bottom consists of 88% sand and 12% muck.

The primary lake-use issues are shoreline run-off and invasive species. A shoreline assessment of Shawano Lake was completed in 2019 (Shawano Lake Comprehensive Management Plan). It concluded that “the largest concerns around Shawano Lake are stairs, trails, or roads leading to the lake and lawn or soil sloping towards the lake” (Shoreline Assessment, 11). Another contributing factor is point sources that send water towards the lake. One recommended remediation strategy is to ask homeowners to redirect downspouts to a buffer away from the lake (Shoreline Assessment, 12).

The second lake-use issue is the presence of invasive species. There are 11 confirmed invasive species in Shawano Lake. Invasive plants include Eurasian watermilfoil/hybrid milfoil, purple loosestrife, curly-leaf pondweed, reed canary grass, and giant reed. For invasive invertebrate species Shawano Lake has zebra mussels, rusty crayfish, Chinese mystery snails, banded mystery snails, and faucet snails. Additionally, there is one invasive fish species, which is the common carp (Heath et al., 87). These plant and animal species can negatively affect lake navigation, swimming, and fishing. There are plans to combat some of the invasive species; see the Shawano County Invasive Species Strategic Management Plan (SCISSMP) that includes options for chemical, physical and biological control projects (Bartsch).

Shawano Lake hosts vast range of tourism and recreational activities throughout the year. The lake is highly accessible with 8 public boat landings, 14 walk in locations, and more than 250 parking spaces for boat trailers (Heath et al., 6). There are also 3 public lands/parks within 1000 feet of the lake and one public beach. Residents and visitors take part in many activities, including boating, fishing, and camping. In particular, the lake sees a lot of recreational fishing activity, with tournaments hosted both during the regular and ice fishing seasons (Heath et al., 6).

There are several options for accommodation near Shawano Lake. These include 5 campgrounds and 19 resorts/rental businesses in proximity to the lake (Heath et al. 6). Surrounding Shawano Lake are also numerous restaurants and bars. Some of the most popular establishments include Brother’s Pub and Classic’s Restaurant & Lounge (see Figure 1).


Figure 1. Map of Recreational Amenities on Shawano Lake



In recent years, the water level of Shawano Lake has been a concern for local parties. In May 2021, North Eastern Wisconsin Hydro, a Wolf River Dam operator, and Shawano Area Waterways Management, a property owners’ group, applied to permanently raise Shawano Lake water levels (Hurley). Since then, the Federal government has approved an increase in Shawano Lake levels from 802.5 feet mean sea level to 802.9 feet mean sea level (Kerhin). However, the increase approved in July 2021 is set to expire after 2 years, which leaves those affected seeking a more permanent solution. The lake level is an important issue for many because low water levels have been associated with disrupted navigation and increased boater and swimming safety concerns (Heath et al., 17). In fact, a stakeholder survey completed by the Shawano Area Waterways Management group found that a significant majority of respondents preferred higher water levels (Heath et al., 18).

Last, we note that the economic conditions of the Shawano Lake community provide some important context for our findings. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates Shawano County’s 2021 population as 40,859 people. The median household income is approximately $57,322. Unemployment in March 2022 was 3.4%. Overall, 92% of the county’s population has a high school degree or equivalent; 16.3% of the population has attained a bachelor’s degree or higher.




2. Methodology

Our research suggests that Shawano Lake influences the local economy through several distinct pathways (Figure 2). The first is through direct spending by community members, tourists, and secondary homeowners on activities associated with lake use. Since we know the Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on tourism-related spending, when possible, we provide estimates of direct spending for 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 to allow for a more wholistic picture. The second pathway is the induced or indirect effects of this spending. Third, the existence of Shawano Lake also impacts local property values, which in turn affect property tax revenues and local government spending.


Figure 2. Approach Used to Estimate the Economic Impact of Shawano Lake























The Wisconsin Department of Tourism provides estimates of the tourism impact by county. The data are generated by the research vendor Tourism Economics. In 2019, direct visitor spending to Shawano County was estimated at $68.9 million, supporting 938 jobs. In the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, this to fall to $54.3 million (a decrease of 21.2%). Some rebound in spending is anticipated for 2021, but these estimates are not yet available.


Table 1. Total Tourism Impact for Shawano County



Direct Visitor Spending

(in millions)

Total Business Sales

(in millions)


Total Labor Income

(in millions)

State and Local Taxes

(in millions)















$ 86.0





Not Yet Available

Not Yet Available

Not Yet Available

Not Yet Available

Not Yet Available



To attempt to isolate the impact of Shawano Lake from total county tourism, we adopt a tri-pronged approach: (i) estimating direct recreational spending induced by the lake, (ii) estimating the impact of spending by second homeowners, and (iii) estimating the impact of the lake on property values in Shawano County. The methodology for each will be discussed the following sections.  


Direct recreational spending for hotels and resorts, dining, camping, fishing, and boating are examined in detail. Once we estimate direct visitor spending, we calculate the additional business or service spending brought on by these activities, including business-to-business spending and/or spending along the supply chain. For example, boaters dining in lakeside restaurants causes the restaurant to hire local staff, to contract with local laundry services, and to purchase supplies of food and drink (Figure 3).


Figure 3. Economic Multipliers




We calculate the indirect effects using IMPLAN Social Account Matrix (SAM) multipliers. IMPLAN is an input-output modeling system that uses annual, regional data to map buying/selling relationships so that users can estimate the total impact of a specific economic activity. In other words, IMPLAN multipliers estimate the ripple effect of a given economic activity through input purchases and labor payments. While there are hundreds of different multipliers for different activities, those that we use are reported in Table 2.


Table 2. Shawano County Multipliers


Industry Code



Indirect Multiplier

SAM Multiplier


Retail food and beverages




Retail gas




Retail sporting goods, hobby, musical instruments, and bookstores




General retail




Landscaping and grounds services




Other amusement and recreation




Hotels and motels




Full-service restaurants and bars




Local government




In addition, we rely on estimates from an Economic Impact Analysis of the Wisconsin Park System to calculate daily spending by recreational visitors. For example, Wisconsin campers spend an average of $41.19 per person, per day in the local community they visit, inclusive of accommodation, dining, gasoline, groceries, entertainment, admissions, fees, licenses, and equipment rentals. Wisconsin boaters spend an average of $85.60/day and anglers spend approximately $62.03/day.


While we attempt to capture most of the economic activity associated with Shawano Lake, we exclude from our analysis the following.


  • We do not include activity by the Shawano Wisconsin Airport and Seaplane Base. Because our focus is specifically on Shawano Lake, general airport transport is not relevant. Current seaplane use remains highly limited because of silting in the turning basin. Until the basin is dredged and fueling capability at the seaplane dock is improved, it the economic impact of seaplanes will remain small. Future airport investments designed to support seaplanes would be highly beneficial, as Shawano Wisconsin Airport is one of only two in the state where the airport is within walking distance of tourism amenities.
  • We exclude the economic impact of Camp Tekawitha, an outdoor ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay for two reasons. First, the camp’s water access is on Loon Lake, not Shawano Lake. Second, it is not clear how much revenue generated by the camp stays in the community versus flows to Green Bay. We note that between June and August, the camp typically has 230 individuals onsite and using the facilities each day. This includes 1300 summer campers, 60 staff members, and 5000 short-term visitors. While it is likely some of these people participate in activities related to Shawano Lake and/or spend money in the Shawano community, we cannot effectively capture the impact.
  • The impact of ice fishing is included in our analysis of anglers’ community impact (via fishing license purchases). We do not include estimates of deer hunters, as they are unlikely to be using the lake. We also exclude cross-country skiers and snowmobilers because while trails are lake adjacent in some places, these individuals’ visits were likely motivated by factors other than the lake.
  • We exclude two other trends that are yet small but likely to have a larger impact in the future. The first is the transition by private campgrounds from daily to seasonal site rental. While we know this is occurring, the private campgrounds were unwilling to provide us with any data. Second, we also know that there has been an increase in the vacation or short-term stay housing market. Airbnb lists twelve cabins or houses for rent directly on the lake. Vrbo lists thirteen houses and cabins for rent, though there is some overlap between the two. That said, only five percent of second homeowners reported renting their house to third parties; their estimated revenues were quite small.


3. Direct and Indirect Spending by Lake Visitors

3.1 Spending on Hotel Accommodations


Shawano County is home to 17 hotels and resorts. Of these, 14 are within 5 miles of the lake. These have a total capacity of 349 rooms. The remaining 3 are farther from the lake. Their total capacity is 71 rooms. The average listed hotel rate was $76. Cottages and resort rates average $166. A list of hotels can be found in the appendix.[1] Based on occupancy levels and lake proximity, we estimate that as much as 83% of room capacity can be attributed to lake users.


We determined the total amount spent on accommodation in Shawano County in each of the past 3 years (2021, 2020, 2019; data on 2018 is pending). This information is available from the Wisconsin Division of Research and Policy. After filtering by county, the appropriate data was found under the accommodation industry.[2]


Next, we estimate the difference in room spending between the summer and winter months. Total hotel accommodation spending from December to April is used as a baseline for non-lake-related hotel spending in Shawano County. Next, we calculate total spending from May through November each year. Taking the difference between the two provides a high-end estimate of direct hotel spending related to lake visits (Table 3, column 2). However, given that we estimate only 83% of county hotel capacity is reasonably near the lake to be counted as lake tourism, we can multiply column by 0.83 to get a more reasonable estimate for direct lake spending on accommodation (column 3).


Last, we calculate the direct and indirect spending attributable to lake-use hotel accommodation using a SAM multiplier of 1.0052 (columns 4 and 5). In 2021, we therefore estimate that lake-use hotel spending amounted to between $1.57 and $1.90 million.


Table 3. Total Accommodation Spending Attributable to Lake-Use



Direct Lake Spending

(High Estimate)


Direct Lake Spending

(Low Estimate)

Direct + Indirect Spending

(High Estimate)

Direct + Indirect Spending

(Low Estimate)









$1,434, 462





$1,123, 252








Covid-19 had a significant impact on travel and tourism spending. Gursoy and Chi (2020) reported that more than half of Americans sampled were unwilling to travel to a destination and stay at a hotel in the early months of the pandemic. Examining monthly spending in Shawano County, we can see a steep decline in hotel spending between 2019 and 2020. Tourism began to rebound in April 2021. Tourism declined again between December 2021 and March 2022 with the Omicron wave, before increasing throughout the summer.


3.2 Spending Related to Camping


Campers on Shawano Lake account for a significant amount of direct tourist spending. There are a total of 5 campgrounds on the lake with approximately 510 usable sites. These campgrounds range from sites oriented towards large RV campers to smaller campgrounds that advertise their boating docks and fishing. Average prices for these campsites are approximately $40/night, with prices ranging from $36 to $57 per night.

To estimate the economic impact that campers have on the Shawano community, we first need to develop an estimate of the total number of annual campers (annual camper nights). We begin by calculating estimates of total occupancy for all the campsites surrounding Shawano Lake based on campground revenues. We use the information provided by Shawano County Park to scale estimates for the private campgrounds. Note that Shawano County Park has 125 sites (Table 4).


Table 4. Estimating Revenues and Spending at Private Campgrounds



Shawano County Park

Fawn Lake

Kellogg Kampsites

Pine Grove


Total Annual Revenues

Number of Sites







Total Revenue in 2018







Total Revenue 2019







Total Revenue 2020







Total Revenue 2021







Multiplier for Scaling Data Estimates

125/125 =1.0

100/125 =0.8

50/125 = 0.4

200/125 =1.6

35/125 = 0.28



Next, we can estimate average camper spending per day. The Wisconsin DNR State Park System finds that, on average, campers spend $41.19 per day in Wisconsin, $3.08 of which goes to accommodation. Since we already account for site revenues, we use an average per day camper spending of $38.11 (inclusive of spending on restaurants, gasoline, groceries, entertainment, misc. retail, admissions, fees, licenses, equipment rentals). See Table 5.


Table 5. Estimated Total Community Spending from Campers



Total Camp Site Revenue

Additional Discretionary Campsite Revenues[3]


Total Estimated Number of Campers (Camper Nights)

Direct Camper Spending in the Community

Total Direct + Indirect Spending




























We calculate indirect spending using a multiplier of 1.048 for direct camper spending and private campground revenues (a weighted average of the relevant multipliers for spending on groceries, restaurants, gas, etc.). For Shawano County Park revenues, we use a local government multiplier of 1.9914. For private campgrounds, we use 1.0052.


While the pandemic had a negative effect on hotel accommodations over the past two years, the opposite was true for camping. In 2021, camping accounted for nearly $5 million in community spending.


3.3 Spending in Restaurants and Bars


Shawano County is home to an estimated 40 bars and restaurants, of which 13 are in close proximity to the lake (32.5%). Using calculations of total direct spending on food services and drinking places as provided by the Wisconsin Division of Research and Policy for Shawano County, we estimate the proportion associated with lake-use. Data was available for 2021, 2020, and 2019. We discount 2019 values by the inflation rate to estimate 2018 food service and drinking spending.[4] Values are reported in Table 6.


Next, we calculate the direct plus indirect spending attributable to lake-use hotel accommodation using a SAM multiplier of 1.1153. Although not as dramatic as for hotel spending, it is evident that the pandemic also significantly impacted restaurant and bar spending, leading to a decline of more than $1.3 million in 2020 compared to 2019. By 2022, we can see that dining and bar spending has rebounded, contributing more than $22 million to the local Shawano economy.


Table 6. Total Restaurant and Bar Spending Attributable to Lake-Use



Direct Spending on Restaurants and Bars


Estimated Direct Spending at Lakefront Restaurants and Bars


Direct + Indirect Spending



















3.4 Spending on Boats and Boat Rentals


Boating makes an important contribution to the tourism economy in Wisconsin, and its impact has only increased throughout the pandemic, as boating has provided a safe recreational and socializing option. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, boat sales in Wisconsin increased by 9% in 2020, and boat registrations rose by 2%. Overall boating generates approximately $4 billion in economic activity for the state, once manufacturing, sales, and service are considered.


Boating landing fees and dockage account for a significant source of revenue for Shawano County (Table 7).  



Table 7. Shawano County Boat Launch and Docking Revenues



Annual Boat Launch Stickers

Number of Daily Passes

Total Launch Revenues

Boat Landing Fees

Boat Dock (Slip) Rentals

Total Direct Spending

Direct + Indirect Spending



































In addition to private boat use, Shawano Lake has several rental options, including those available from Shawano County Park and American Marine. In 2021, Shawano County Park offered five pontoon boats for rent, one fishing boat, and a number of small paddle craft.[5] American Marine offered three pontoon boats, one ski boat, and one fishing boat for rental in addition to some smaller craft options. There are also several single craft rental options on the lake through resorts and private individuals. As we did for camping, we scale revenues reported by Shawano County Park to provide an estimate of the total direct boat rental spending. We do the same for estimating the impact of boat slip rentals.  


In addition to boat rentals, boaters may eat in lakeside restaurants, purchase fuel, and otherwise spend money in the community. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimates the average boater spends $85.60 per outing, of which $14.15 is rental expenses, yielding net-of-rental spending of $71.45. To calculate the number of boat rentals, we assume an average rental price of $150/day and an average number of boaters per boat of 2.5 people. We use a multiplier of 1.048 (a weighted average of the relevant multipliers) for boater spending, a multiplier of 1.0058 for private rental spending and 1.9914 for rentals through Shawano County Park.


Table 8. Estimated Community Spending by Boaters Using Rentals



Direct Boat Rental Spending

Estimated Number of Annual Rental Days

Direct Spending Assuming 2.5 Boaters Per Rental Outing

Direct + Indirect Spending From Boat Renters


$ 17,874





$ 72,526





$ 89,925





$ 81,785





In 2021, boat-related expenditures by non-lakefront homeowners added nearly a quarter of a million dollars in local spending.


3.5 Spending on Fishing


In the state of Wisconsin, fishing ranges from a calming pastime to a competitive sport. In fact, it is estimated that 25% of Wisconsinites fish at least once per season.These Wisconsin anglers catch an estimated 88 million fish annually. Sportfishing generates approximately $2.3 billion in economic benefits for the state and supports nearly 22,000 jobs (Burkett and Winkler 2017; LaCrosse Tribune 2014).

Anglers on Shawano Lake fish for bass, walleye, perch, bluegill, pike, and muskies (dba AA Fishing 2020). Table 9 reports data for the number of Shawano County fishing permits and licenses sold each year from 2018 through 2021. Data were provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR).[6] This data includes fishing permits for single day use and annual permits. Based on estimates of the average fishing days per permitted angler, we develop an approximate count of the total angler days on Shawano Lake per year.[7]

The report on the Economic Impacts of the Wisconsin State Park System estimates the average Wisconsin angler spends $81.58 per day, including overnight accommodations, food and drink, fuel, entertainment, retail, and equipment rentals and purchases (calculated based on a weighted multiplier 1.048).


Table 9. Estimates of Anglers and Direct and Indirect Spending


Number of Daily Permits

Number of Annual Permits

Participation Estimates of Annual Permit Holders

Total Permit Revenue

Estimate of Total Direct Spending by Anglers

Total of Direct + Indirect






























Since permit revenue accrues to the state DNR, we do not include these dollars in estimates of the total direct and indirect effect of anglers on Shawano Lake. We do note, however, that some of these funds return to the community through WDNR efforts at fish restocking, water and fish quality investments, and permit and fishing limit enforcement.

While we witness some decline in permits and days out fishing throughout the pandemic, anglers are still estimated to contribute nearly a half a million dollars to the local community annually.


4. Direct Spending by Second Homeowners


Out of 814 private homes on Shawano Lake, 516 are second homes. Using information provided by the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) Graphic Information System (GIS), we identify all the lots with lakefront footage.[8] The website provides publicly available information on land parcel ownership data as well as property taxes. We prune the data, removing any commercial or government-owned parcels of land. We then separated the parcels into primary or secondary residencies by comparing the site address to the ownership mailing addresses, with matching pairs of information labeled as primary residence and nonmatching pairs labeled as secondary. This led to our count of 815 lakefront houses, 300 of which are primary residences (36.8%) and 515 of which are secondary residences (63.2%).


Next, we created a digital survey accessible via QR code or website address. The survey asked secondary homeowners how many days they spend per year at their lake residence, and in which season they use their home most often. Furthermore, if they rent their lake residence, we asked which platform they use and how many nights per year other individuals occupy it. Last, we asked for an estimate of their annual personal lake house expenditures, including groceries and gas but excluding property taxes. Survey respondents were asked to estimate how their spending was allocated between such things as restaurants and bars, groceries and gas, recreational activities, and local events.


The survey was mailed to 498 usable addresses as identified by through the GIS. We received a total of 78 responses. Second homeowners use their lake house an average of 86.93 days per year or approximately 23.82% of the time. On average, this varies by 52.15 days (Table 10).


Table 10. Second Homeowner Survey Statistics

Survey Question

Mean or Percent

(Standard Deviation)

How many days per year do you estimate you spend in residence at your lake house?


86.93 days



In which season do you use the house most?







Do you rent your lake house? 







What is your estimated total annual spending in the Shawano community?




Spending by category

     Bars and restaurants



     Groceries, gas, local purchases 



     Local recreational activities 



     Local events 





















Further, 94.67% of respondents state that they do not rent out their secondary residence during the year. For those that rent, Vrbo and AirBnB were equally identified as renting platforms used. The small number of houses rented, suggests the impact of private person-to-person rentals is not significant and we, therefore, exclude this from our final analysis.


Secondary residents indicate that their household spends an average of $6115.00 annually in the Shawano community; it is worth noting there is a high variation in spending. On average, spending deviates from the mean by more than $5319. Of this annual total, respondents indicate they spend the most on groceries, gas, and local purchases followed by restaurants and bars. Second homeowners spend an average of $1,172 a year on things such as lawn service, snow removals, and repairs.


Using these values, we estimate total direct spending by all second homeowners (Table 11).    


Table 11. Direct, Indirect, and Total Spending

Spending Category

Total Direct Spending[9]

Total Spending = Direct + Indirect


Bars and restaurants







Groceries, gas, and local purchases






Local recreational







Local events







Maintenance, lawn services, snow services








Aggregate Impact 







It is evident that second homeowners have a sizable impact on the local economy, amounting to more than $3.5 million in 2021. In particular, we find it encouraging that second homeowners to value Shawano restaurants and maintenance and repair services. Note that spending on recreational activities may appear low in our data since we did not ask for expenditures over time. For example, most second homeowners likely had already invested in fishing equipment, boats, snowmobiles, skis, and other “one-time” expenditure goods. The spending we capture was primarily for maintenance and updating. Note that we discount the total impact by the inflation rate to estimate spending for the previous three years.




5. The Impact of the Lake on Property Values and Property Tax Revenues


Homes with lake frontage fetch a premium in the housing market in Wisconsin. These higher prices in turn affect property tax collections in their communities. Shawano Lake’s proximity to the Chicago-metro area makes it a particularly attractive option for many Illinois residents. In fact, according to property tax records, 26 homes on Shawano Lake are owned by individuals from Illinois. An additional 6 are owned by people who claim Florida as a primary residence; ten others are owned by individuals who reside in Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, New York, North Carolina, and Texas.


To estimate the impact that lake frontage has on property values in Shawano County, we use data from the Shawano County GIS map. From the map, we identified all the lots with lakefront footage.  


Once the initial data was categorized, we found information via Shawano County tax records and realtor websites like, on the assessed value of the home, as well as the lot size, year built, livable square footage, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, and frontage for a subset of the data. When data were missing, most commonly for frontage, we referred to the GIS map or manual measuring methods. We have complete data on the 300 primary residences. Of the 515 secondary residences, we took a random sample of 50 and collected similar data for these houses, which allows us to compare the features of secondary homes to primary residences. To determine the impact of lakefront property on assessment values, we randomly selected another 50 properties from Shawano County that are not on the lake by using a random number generator to provide random lot numbers. If the resulting parcel was one of the excludable categories (e.g., government-owned, commercial, etc.) another number was generated until 50 residential parcels were found. However, after collecting data for these parcels, there were many holes in the data, and without handpicking the parcels and removing complete randomness, we opted to compare our regressions and data points to the county average for those values, which was collected via realtor websites like and, which yielded a median assessed home value of $140,000, and median year built of 1975.


The average assessed value for all lakefront properties was $419,665. Primary residences average $429,590 and secondary residences average $388,182. However, at a 95% confidence level, the difference between primary and secondary house values is not statistically significant. When comparing the lakefront assessed value mean to the county data, we do find that the difference is statistically significant, and by quite a large margin. Summary Statistics are provided in Table 12.


Table 12. Summary Statistics for Lakefront Properties (Means; Standard Deviation in Parenthesis)



All Lakefront Properties  


Primary Residences



Secondary Residences


Total Assessed Value ($)


419,665.26 (159,323.24)

429,590.40 (163,502.60)


383,731.81 (163,398.33)

Lot Size (square feet)

15,268.58 (11,963.87)






Year Built








Square footage























Frontage (feet)








Second Home (Y=1/N=0)





Running a simple regression of assessed property values conditional on whether the home is lakefront yields an average premium of $220,072 for those houses on the lake.




To find the property added value of the lakefront houses in Shawano County, we multiplied the premium by the total number of houses on the lake (815 houses). The results suggest a $179,358,297 of property value is added to Shawano County from the lake. Given the county property tax rate of 1.71%, this generates an additional $3,067,027 in tax revenues for the county, compared to an equivalent number of houses not on the lake. We then took the original premium multiplied by the county tax rate (1.71%) to get an average tax revenue per property of $3,763.22 compared to the county average of $2,336. Dividing the lakefront revenue to the county average revenue, we found that it is 1.61 times the county average in tax revenue. 


Table 13. Added Value from Lakefront Properties


Total Increase in Property Values from Lake Frontage

Total Increase in Property Tax Revenues

Direct and Indirect Property Tax Impact



= tax revenues * 1.9914 = $6,107,676  



Using the multiplier for local government activity of 1.9914 times the total increase in property values from lake frontage and the total increase in property tax revenues, we analyze the total direct and indirect property tax impact. Lakefront properties contribute an additional $6 million in property taxes to the county in 2021, as represented in Table 5. We discount the total impact by the inflation rate to estimate values for the previous three years.


Higher home values may also affect consumer spending. If consumers’ homes increase in value, there is a wealth effect created, making consumers feel wealthier and want to spend more in their local community (Berger et al. 2018; Guo and Hardin 2017). This could include eating out more often, engaging in more recreational activities, or spending more on their property or home improvements. Higher home assessments can also generate funds for consumer spending, if homeowners extract value through home equity loans or other similar financial maneuvers.


6. Conclusions


Shawano Lake is an important asset to the local communities in the area. In addition to direct private sector market-based contributions of non-local visitor spending to regional businesses and their spinoff multiplier, the lake provides eco-system and natural benefits that accrue to Wisconsin residents at large. The applied research reported here outlines the market-based benefits associated with Shawano Lake use. While significant, we argue that these are in fact a conservative estimate of the overall value o the lake to Shawano County and the state of Wisconsin.

To estimate the impact of visitor spending, we use taxable sales of hotel accommodation and restaurant and bar spending provided by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. We estimate spending on camping and boating using revenue data provided by Shawano County Park. Estimates of anglers were calculated based on information provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

We estimate that resident use of lake amenities combined with visitor spending contributed nearly $30 million to the communities proximate to Shawano Lake. The public properties of Shawano Lake are important drivers of local economic vitality, particularly Shawano County Park and publicly operated boat access points. Altogether, Shawano County Park activities generate nearly $5 million in direct spending on camping, fishing, and boating. Beyond their capacity to generate revenues as government enterprises, local parks serve as important conduits for outdoor recreation. Playgrounds, beaches, picnic spaces, public docks, and walking and biking trails all contribute to the health and wellness of community members in important ways, though it is difficult to assign specific monetary values to these benefits.

Second homeowners on Shawano Lake make significant purchases in the local community, including spending on groceries, dining out, and home service maintenance. In 2021, local expenditures were estimated at more than $3.5 million. Lake frontage is also one of the largest determinants of home prices; houses on Shawano Lake command an average $220,000 more in assessed value compared to otherwise comparable homes in Shawano County not on the lake. This value translates into $6.1 million more in local property tax revenues annually,







Table 1A. Monthly Accommodation Spending



































































Total for Dec-Apr:





Total for May-Nov:





Difference = Lake Induced Spending






Discussion of Hedonic Pricing Models


Reviewing Table 2A, we are able to account for and analyze the economic impact that the certain factors have on the Assessed Value of homes on Lake Shawano. Analyzing the Adjusted R2 we can see that approximately 68% of the Assessed Values (Y) are explained by our X-values. In this case we would utilize the Adjusted R instead of R2 to account for the multiple X-values. The Multiple R (0.83) illustrates a strong linear relationship between the correlated values. Looking at the p-values, using a 95% confidence interval, we can view that Lot Size, Square Footage, Bathrooms, and Frontage are all statistically significant in explaining the Assessed Value, while Year Built, Bedrooms, and Second Home, are all statistically insignificant in explaining the Assessed Value. Utilizing the coefficients in Table 2A, we can see that the regression data can be interpreted into the following equation:



Table 2A. Initial Hedonic Pricing Model for Lakefront Homes



From the X coefficients we can conclude that the base Assessed Value for a home on Lake Shawano is $51,212.12. We can see that Lot Size has a positive correlation with the Assessed Value, increasing $2.74 to the home's value for each square foot of the lot. There is a $4.80 increase in value for every year the home was built. Square Footage adds a $111.55 increase in value for every square foot of interior livable area. The number of Bedrooms surprisingly had a negative correlation with the Assessed Value, decreasing by $3,363.59 per bedroom added to the home. This could be because there are a variety of homes with different price points with the average amount of bedrooms being 3. Meaning that there is little to no effect in increasing the Assessed Value, as supported by Bedrooms being statistically insignificant. On the other hand, Bathrooms have a large positive correlation with Assessed Value, increasing the by $38,715.46 for every bathroom added to the property. The Frontage also increases the home’s value by $650.72 per foot of frontage. Surprisingly, if the home was not a secondary home, represented by 1 in the dataset, it had a significant increase on the home’s value, increasing by $14,812.62 if it is not a secondary property. This may be due to the idea of vacation homes. They are usually not lived in on a daily basis, so the idea of renovations is rarer, compared to a home that is lived in quite often and has more wear-and-tear.


Running the regression again, we can see the economic impact of adding 50 randomized non-frontage homes into the dataset to get a basis on how much value is added by being on the lake. We then put in “0” for the Frontage value. Looking at Table 3A, the new Adjusted R2 decreased by a small margin to explaining only 66% of Assessed Values (Y) by our X-values. The Multiple R also decreases to 0.82, interpreting a still strong linear correlation between the Y and X-values. Analyzing the p-values, we can see that Square Footage, Bedrooms, Bathrooms, and Frontage are statistically significant while, Lot Size, Year Built, and Second Home are statistically insignificant. To see the actual economic impact of the frontage and non-frontage homes in Shawano on the Assessed Value, we can view that the new formula is:







Table 3A. Refined Hedonic Model with Additional Nonlakefront Homes



When looking at the adjustments to the regression equation and the X coefficients, we can see a significant adjustment for most variables. The base Assessed Value (Y-intercept) has increased to $129,637.89 as the lowest value for a property without any adjustments. The Lot Size has decreased to $0.02 per square footage on the property, but remains positively correlated to the Assessed Value. Year Built has increased to $5.34 per year that the home was built. Square Footage of the interior livable area has decreased to $103.07 per square foot added. Bedrooms remain as a negative correlation to the Assessed Value but have dramatically increased to $19,973.91 per bedroom added to a property. Bathrooms have also increased by a fair margin to $41,948.13 per bathroom added to the property. Frontage has almost doubled, bringing the coefficient to $1,090.19 per foot of frontage added to the property. The adjustment for the correlation of a Secondary Home has also dramatically decreased to $2,649.26 if the home is a secondary residence. Overall, Frontage does seem to have a large effect on the value of a home as comparing both equations and their coefficients.


To find the property added value of the lakefront houses in Shawano County, we multiplied the premium from regression output (Table 4A), focused on lakefront compared to non-lakefront properties on the Assessed Value, by the total number of houses on the lake (815 houses). The results showed a $179,358,297 of value added to Shawano County. We then took the original premium multiplied by the county tax rate (1.71%) to get a tax revenue of $3,763 compared to the county average of $2,336. Dividing the lakefront revenue to the county average revenue, we found that it is 1.61 times the county average in tax revenue.


Table 4A. One Variable Regression Model for Impact of Lake Frontage







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[1] We found that each hotel had a different amount of information readily available. For some, we had to call or email to find out capacity information. Others had Facebook pages or fully developed websites. The more traditional hotels had information on listed on Tripadvisor, Expedia, or similar websites.

[3] This includes firewood purchases, dumping fees, electric fees, etc.

[5] In 2018, Shawano County Park offered a single pontoon boat for rent. They added two additional boats 2020 and another in 2021.

[6] Data was provided by Kimberly Currie of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

[7] To adapt the data to estimate the economic impact that Shawano Lake anglers have on the local community, we make several simplifying assumptions. First, all permits registered in Shawano County are used for recreation on Shawano Lake at some point during the season. Second, all permits registered in Shawano County are an accurate representation of total recreational use by anglers of Shawano Lake (e.g., there is no unlicensed fishing).

[8] The website can be found at:

[9] This is calculated by taking the average amount spent per resident ($6115) times the proportion of income spent on each category, then multiplying this value by 515 second homes.