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DC Lobbyist Ed Gillespie Needs to Learn the Economic Realities of Southwest Virginia

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From DPVA…more utter idiocy by lobbyist and Republican hack Ed Gillespie. I mean, the “gas prices” (he means “gasoline” but whatever) “argument?” Seriously?  “Gas prices” were low when Mark Warner took office, as anyone with half a freakin' brain knows, because world oil demand had collapsed due to the Great Recession which started under Republican (mis)rule. Apparently, among the MANY things Ed Gillespie has no clue about is Economics 101. #FAIL

Gillespie cannot identify one thing he would do to boost tourism in the region

 

Well, looks like DC Lobbyist Ed didn't do his research before coming to Southwest Virginia, but what would you expect from a Washington insider? First, a Bluefield radio host had to explain to Mr. Gillespie the prevalence and importance of minimum wage jobs for primary earners in the region. Then, later in the day when a local reporter asked Ed how he would boost tourism in Southwest Virginia — one of the biggest economic drivers in the region — he could not point to a single thing he would do to boost tourism and instead stuck to his cookie cutter talking points.

Listen to full audio here: https://soundcloud.com/vademocrats/ed-gillespie-on-tourism-in-southwest-virginia-71614

Reporter: The theory is that the economy has shifted dramatically towards tourism and trying to attract folks into the region. If you’re elected what kinds of, where do you see that in terms of a priority scale, what would you do to maybe help promote that?

 

Gillespie: I do think that’s an important and a great opportunity for growth for us, but look when you have gas prices that are way too high and gas prices are nearly double what they were when Senator Warner took office, today. And when people don’t have you know jobs and wages are flat, then you know that hurts the tourism sector and its hard to foster a growing tourism sector when people can't afford the gas to drive places because the prices are too high, because their wages are flat, or they don’t have a job.”

 

We figured Senator Warner’s long record of work in the region could provide Ed with some tips on how to really promote tourism in Southwest Virginia.

 

SENATOR WARNER ESTABLISHED THE CROOKED ROAD MUSIC TRAIL AS GOVERNOR, AND HIS CONTINUED WORK ON THE TRAIL HAS HELPED MAKE SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA A MUSIC TOURISM DESTINATION.


Old Birthplace Of Country Music Museum Was One Of Major Stops On Crooked Road Heritage Music Trail And Gov. Warner Was One Of Trail’s “Biggest Boosters.” “The General Assembly approved the trail concept in 2004. The road highlights eight main attractions, plus numerous side trips. […] In addition to Floyd, Galax and Stanley country, stops include the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Galax, the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, the Country Cabin in Norton and the Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum College. […] One of the project's biggest boosters is Gov. Mark Warner, who made the Heritage Music Trail a centerpiece of his effort to improve Southwest Virginia's economy. The $15 billion tourist trade in Virginia usually ranks as the state's sixth or seventh-largest industry, but much of that sum is spent in the Interstate 95 corridor from Virginia Beach to Northern Virginia. ‘I want to see more and more state tourism dollars get spent in Western Virginia,’ Warner, who chaired the Appalachian Regional Commission for two years while governor, said in an interview for this story.” [Roanoke Times, 7/31/05]


Under Gov. Warner’s Aggressive Marketing Of Southwest’s Music And Culture, Attendance Shot Up 38 Percent At Old Birthplace Of Country Music Museum Over 3 Years. “The tourism effort kicked off about three years ago, when the state Department of Housing and Community Development first began working with local governments on The Crooked Road. By agreeing to link their musical attractions under The Crooked Road marketing initiative, towns and communities throughout Southwest Virginia have seen the arrival of crowds of tourists. According to Tamra Talmadge-Anderson, spokeswoman for the state housing department, attendance has doubled at the Rex Theater in Galax, where live bluegrass shows are broadcast over the radio on Fridays. At the nearby Blue Ridge Music Center, attendance has jumped 25 percent. In Bristol, the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance Museum has seen attendance shoot up 38 percent, and the nearby Carter Family Fold no longer has a slow, winter season: Crowds of more than 600 pack the seats every Saturday.”[Richmond Times Dispatch, 11/13/05]

 

Mark Warner Recommended Awarding A $50,000 Grant To The Birthplace Of Country Music Alliance In 2005. U.S. Fed News reported that Governor Mark Warner “recommended more than $2.8 million in Appalachian Regional Commission funding for 19 projects in Southwest Virginia.” Governor Warner’s recommendations included a $50,000 grant to the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance in Bristol, VA for Center Planning and Design. [US Fed News (from press release), 1/18/2005]

 

Warner’s Proposed 2006 Budget Provided $19.8 Million To Support Selected Arts And Cultural Attractions Across The Commonwealth To Bring Tourist Dollars Into Virginia. “Targeted Investments: Support for the Arts and Cultural and Historic Attractions. Museums and cultural centers across Virginia provide educational opportunities, are a powerful tool for recruiting and retaining quality employers, and provide direct tourist dollars into our economy. The Governor's budget increases support for the Commission for the Arts by a total of $4.1 million, to reach 80 percent of the goal of $1 per capita in arts funding by the end of the biennium. The Commission makes grants to local arts organizations in the Commonwealth. In addition, the budget provides $19.8 million to support selected cultural and historic attractions across the Commonwealth.” [Gov. Warner Press Release, 12/16/05] 

The Birthplace Of Country Music Alliance Received $600,000 In The Approved 2006 Virginia Budget. “As the General Assembly finally wrapped up the business of approving a new 2006-08 state budget, the leadership of the House of Delegates crowed that it preserved its budgetary traditions — maintaining a separation of spending and taxing — despite an unprincipled onslaught from the state Senate. […] Or labeled it a “nonstate agency,” because there was record spending on local attractions ($600,000 for the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance, $2 million for the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, etc.).” [Daily Press Editorial, 7/12/06]

New Birthplace Of Country Music Museum Was Expected To “Become A Destination Along The Crooked Road,” Which Generated Almost $13 Million In Tourism Dollars In 2008. “The Birthplace of Country Music Alliance expects to wrap up fundraising and finally complete its long-promised, much ballyhooed cultural heritage center in a vacant, two-story building at the corner of Moore and Cumberland streets. […] The alliance's proposed center would become a destination along The Crooked Road, a Virginia-sponsored music tourism program designed to give visitors authentic cultural experiences along a 330-mile route through Appalachia. An independent 2008 report showed visitors along The Crooked Road generated direct annual spending of $12.9 million and a total economic impact of more than $23 million. ‘The study is on paper. The only thing I can point to is there is great musical success down the Tennessee corridor. Obviously, a huge investment in Southwest Virginia is based off music. We're sandwiched right in between and we are the birthplace of country music and on one of the busiest interstates in the country,’ Rainero said.” [Bristol Herald-Courier, 8/14/11]

 

2012: Chairman Of Birthplace Of Country Music Alliance Board Said That $500,000 Grant Recommendation To Fund New BCMA Museum Was “Thanks In Large Part To [Former] Gov. [Tim] Kaine And Sen. [Mark] Warner.” Tricities.com reported, “’I cannot tell you how exciting that is. That is awesome,’ said John Rainero, chairman of the alliance board of directors. […] The proposed facility would embrace Bristol’s congressional designation as the birthplace of country music for a series of landmark 1927 recordings and highlight the region’s long-term influence on different genres of music and Appalachian culture. […]The recommended $500,000 will still be subject to final approval by ARC,” Sherrill wrote in an email. ‘If that is correct,’ a surprised Rainero said via telephone, ‘it is thanks in large part to [former] Gov. [Tim] Kaine and Sen. [Mark] Warner, who we recently met with.’ [Tricities.com, 3/24/12]

Appalachian Regional Commission Later Approved The $500,000 Grant Request For The Museum. ARC Projects Approved in Fiscal Year 2012 listed the Birthplace of Country Music Cultural Heritage Center as having been approved for a $500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission. [ARC Projects Approved in Fiscal Year 2012, accessed 7/16/14]