With no exposition center operating in the heart of Southwest Virginia, residents of the region routinely travel to Freedom Hall Civic Center in Tennessee, Triad Civic Center in North Carolina, the Charleston Civic Center in West Virginia or other facilities located outside of the region for entertainment, shows and conferences.
With the only option for residents of Virginia’s panhandle to attend concerts, host large-scale events, etc. being out of state or outside of the region, several studies, including one by Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development, have concluded that Wythe County’s location makes it “a prime geographic location in the region” for such a facility.
This same study stated, “The idea also fits with the plans of the region. There is an agricultural and tourism focus in the region, but there is no facility to showcase the products of the region.”
With a long and rich history centered around agriculture and mining, Wythe County has been in the process of diversifying and stabilizing its local economy for many years. The proposed exposition center will provide classroom and training facilities which will help the residents of Southwest Virginia compete in a “global” and “knowledge-based” economy.
Additionally, the proposed center will accelerate regional transformation and establish Virginia’s western district as a tourism destination, as opposed to being merely “gas and go” stop. This transformation will benefit local residents by creating jobs, easing the local tax burden, and enhancing the overall prosperity of the region.
The Appalachian Regional Exposition Center personifies the Appalachian region’s culture of self-reliance and strong work ethic: a citizen-initiated project aimed at creating economic prosperity for the entire region.
According to a Weldon Cooper Center for Economic & Policy Studies report, published in June 2014, the center will create $3.173 million in additional spending by year five — this spending will be dispersed throughout the region and multiplied several times over, thus stimulating the local economies of more than eleven Southwest Virginia localities.
Last December, Gov. Terry McAuliffe unveiled his economic plan for Virginia, entitled, “New Virginia Economy.” The publication recognized the importance of tourism spending, acknowledging that +$59 million are spent each day by domestic travelers, making the tourism industry the fifth largest private employer in Virginia. The report went on to state, “With $2.8 billion in tax revenue for federal, state, and local governments, increasing tourism is a top priority for Virginia.”
Locally, Wythe County has long been working toward a civic center-type facility and has included an exposition center in its comprehensive plan. Events held at the center will serve to create critical revenue streams for the Commonwealth and the region during a time when federal and state governments are asking localities to take a greater role in funding various programs.