Study Says Robinson Grand Project will have Multi-Million Dollar Impact

By Victoria Cann, Staff Writer, The Exponent Telegram, Thursday, August 25, 2016

Robinson Grand Study

Staff photo by Victoria Cann

CLARKSBURG — The Robinson Grand Performing Arts Center will create $32 million in economic activity in its first five years, as well as $1.3 million in economic impact on an annual basis, according to a study.

“Over the first five-year chunk for the Robinson Grand, this is going to contribute $32 million in economic activity to the region. It’s going to contribute about 55 jobs per year to the region — 221 jobs altogether if you think in job years,” said John Deskins, director of WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, on Wednesday.

Deskins said that overall spending will be around $25 million, which will support 171 jobs over a five-year time period. The first number he presented came from the construction time period, or the renovation economic impact. He said that will create $500,000 in additional tax revenue for the state.

“This is underestimated. All the tax numbers that I present are low estimates because we are just looking at state tax revenue. We are not accounting for local tax revenue as well,” Deskins said.

The second phase he touched on was the impact of operational expenditures.

That refers to money that will be coming in “every year indefinitely” on a year-to-year basis as long as operation of the Robinson Grand continues, he said.

A total of “$1.3 million in annual economic impact, $1.3 million that’s being earned in the Harrison County economy on an annual basis on directly a result of the Robinson Grand, and $21,000 in state tax revenue annually directly as a result of this project,” Deskins said.

The third and final phase that Deskins talked about was the out-of-region tourism baseline. That accounts for visitors who will come to Harrison County from elsewhere to attend events at the Robinson Grand Performing Arts Center; it does not include Harrison County residents who will visit the theater.

“These impacts are associated with just out-of-the region people, and we are estimating $75,000 in annual business activity that’s going to occur here in Harrison County from all the tourists, with over $1,000 in taxes just as a result of that,” Deskins said. “Over the five years, $600,000 in tax revenue for our state as a direct result of the Robinson Grand.”

Deskins said trying to determine the number of tourists from outside the region who will visit the Robinson Grand is difficult, but the researchers looked at national data on similar facilities, city sizes and specific West Virginia cities. He said the researchers took a conservative approach, so the true number could be substantially larger.

Whatever the actual numbers turn out to be, Deskins said economic development and the arts are definitely connected.

“I just want to talk about the importance of the arts and the arts community to fostering economic growth,” Deskins said. “A lot of very solid research has shown that a healthy arts community is one very important piece to hitting the nail right on the head to get young people attracted to this area and get moving forward and to fulfill our potential.”

Clarksburg City Manager Martin Howe called the performing arts center project a “great opportunity.”

“This is a renovation and restoration of the Robinson Grand — a great opportunity for the area to really embrace the arts and culture of the area as a community and as a region,” Howe said.

The performing arts center will have a seating capacity of 950, he said.

The city recently acquired additional property near the theater as part of the renovation, which will include new dressing rooms, a new loading dock, a prop shop and more, Howe said.

Dolores Yoke, board member of the Cultural Foundation of Harrison County and chairman of the Barbara B. Highland Fund for the Arts, said those organizations are excited to be on board for the renovation and restoration of the theater. She said they Cultural Foundation will be handling all the donations for the project.

“The foundation is delighted to serve as that leg of this project. We know the economic impact, and we know the benefit for all of our citizens. We love the idea that it will appeal to citizens of all ages,” she said.

Annie Neeley, a local artist, said she came out to hear the economic impact because it’s important to represent the local talent. She said after hearing about the theater coming back, she needed to learn about it and know what is going on.

“If you invest that money, it gives back — it totally does,” she said. “I was not surprised by the numbers at all, and the main takeaway is we have to encourage young people to move here and stay here. That’s not going to happen unless we give them something to do, and that starts with the arts.”

 

Staff writer Victoria L. Cann can be reached at (304) 626-1409 or vcann@theet.com