Abingdon, VA – Barter Theatre has released the results of a major study measuring the theatre’s impact on the local economy. The independent study determined that Barter Theatre is responsible for generating $34 million in economic impact and supporting 485 jobs across the economic spectrum. Barter is a non-profit organization with an annual operating budget of just over $6 million, located in historic downtown Abingdon, Virginia.
Currently celebrating its 80th season, Barter Theatre attracts over 160,000 visitors annually. Its outstanding performances, educational programs and deep community ties have made it a draw for visiting tourists from around the world and businesses and individuals relocating to the area, as well as a beloved tradition for generations of local residents. Now, the results of this study give real data to measure the economic impact of the theatre’s activities.
Kevin Costello, Director of the Abingdon Convention and Visitor Bureau, said, "We know through our own research that the Barter is the main driver of visitation to Abingdon and generates additional impact through overnight stays, meals at restaurants, and shopping but we didn't have exact figures. This new research shows just how great of a tourism economic engine Barter Theatre really is."
The study, completed on September 12, 2013, was conducted by an independent team of experts with over 30 years of experience in helping destinations understand and expand their tourism potential: Stephen Powell, CEO of Destination Services, LLC; Berkeley Young, President of Young Strategies; and Dr. Steve Morse, Director of the Hospitality & Tourism Program at the College of Business, Western Carolina University.
According to the study, visitors to Barter spent $20.91 million in 2012, on accommodations, dining, shopping, and other items in conjunction with their attendance at Barter. That spending then had a ripple effect in the economy, as those businesses in turn spent money on payroll, services, taxes and more, for a total impact of over $34 million. The visitor spending and ripple effect supported 485 jobs (fulltime and fulltime equivalent). This generated over $3 million in tax revenue helping to keep local tax rates low for residents.
Steve Smith, Food City President and CEO stated, “While most of our region views Barter Theatre as a magnificent venue featuring world class entertainment and talent, the residents of Abingdon and Washington County realize that while Barter is certainly all of that, it also serves as a powerful business engine and huge economic driver for both employment and tourism, as well as a powerful recruitment tool for area business and industry. We are extremely fortunate to have such a multifaceted ‘crown jewel’ right here in our own backyard.”
The study used nationally recognized software called IMPLAN to get the most accurate measurement of Barter’s impact. IMPLAN is widely accepted as the gold standard in measuring economic impact and it has been used by numerous businesses, government agencies and municipalities including the National Park Service, Virginia Tech, the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, and Deloitte and Touche LLP, just to name a few.
One of the secondary goals of the study was to identify areas for future growth. The study determined that Barter Theatre will need to renovate and expand its production facilities before it can expand its offerings. Patrons often talk about the “Barter experience,” and the study also recommended that Barter look for ways to enhance that experience with more amenities and work more closely with local attractions and tourism agencies to boost the area’s tourism appeal.
“This study goes way beyond what we were expecting,” said Producing Artistic Director Richard Rose. “The really good news of this study is that there is strong capability for us all to grow; that Barter’s patrons desire to do more and spend more time in Abingdon. Now the question is, what do we do with this information? How do we grow with all of our tourism partners, in a sustainable and substantial way, so that we can have an even greater impact? This study is going to help guide our growth over the next ten years as we expand the Barter experience.”