Southern Indiana officials are commissioning research to determine whether the region needs a conference center.

SoIn Tourism Executive Director Jim Epperson said the research was spurred by missed opportunities to host conferences in Clark and Floyd counties. The research will determine the center’s ideal location, size and possible events it could host, as well as whether it would be a good investment for the area.

There are private spaces for events in Clark and Floyd counties but Epperson said a public center could bring more revenue to the area.

“I think that there’s some opportunities out there that we’re missing for business into our community,” Epperson said. “We’re losing [conference opportunities] to Evansville, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Bloomington, French Lick. Those are communities that have some kind of a convention conference center or, in the case of French Lick, privately-owned but with quite a bit of meeting space.”

SoIn Tourism Assistant Director Luanne Mattson said tourism has grown in the counties and a conference center could bring more revenue to the area. Mattson said 35,000 people visited the convention tourism bureau’s website in 2014; so far this year they’ve had nearly 90,000 visitors. And two new hotels have come to the area in the past five years with “several more” projected for 2021.

So far, eight firms have reached out about sending research proposals. Proposals are due October 25, and Epperson said the consultant would be selected by January.