Scout deal expected to be big boon
GLEN JEAN, W.Va.-- Economic developers say the announcement that southern West Virginia will be the permanent home of the National Scout Jamboree's permanent home is worth millions of dollars to the local economy.
The Jamboree, which is held every four years, could generate as much as $16.9 million in additional income for the region, according to a study conducted for the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority.
The extra income would come from visitors who will stay in local hotels, buy gasoline from area stores and dine at restaurants in the community. Additional income will also be generated from maintenance functions at the site such as janitorial services, waste management and delivery of supplies.
The study also says the Jamboree could generate $6.9 million in extra tax revenue, with $3.4 million going to the federal government in the form of personal income taxes from additional revenue and $3.5 million going to state and local governments from sales and income taxes.
"This is economic development that we're still trying to get our arms around," said Judy Radford, executive director for the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority.
Officials announced Friday that the scout reserve known as The Summit near the Glen Jean/Mt. Hope area in Fayette County will be the permanent home of the National Scout Jamboree as well as a new high-adventure base and leadership center. The next national Jamboree is scheduled for July 15-24, 2013.
Officials estimate that about 50,000 Boy Scouts will attend the Jamboree along with about 200,000 visitors.
The high-adventure camp in Fayette County is expected to be completed by 2014, and is anticipated to attract thousands of scouts throughout the summer. The Scouts will take part in rock climbing, mountain biking and whitewater rafting among other activities.
The high-adventure base, leadership center and summer camps are estimated to bring in a total of $25.3 million in additional local income annually, according to the study.
Radford said the economic impact of the construction is already being felt in the small communities that surround the site. Already, there are 150 workers preparing the site - and that number is expected to jump to 300 by April, said David LaValle, a Boy Scouts of America spokesman.
About 100 full-time employees will work at The Summit once it is completed, said Bob Mazzuca, chief scout executive for the Boy Scouts of America. An additional 1,000 seasonal part-time jobs will also be created.
"But this goes further than just the jobs created," Radford said.
A committee has been formed to look at how the community can capitalize and cope with the changes that are just over the horizon, Radford said. The committee is looking at everything from additional economic development to keeping the communities clean in anticipation of the thousands of visitors who will make the trek to the site.
"We're looking at how we're going to manage this explosive growth," she said. "This is going to change every aspect of our community."
Cindy Dragan, assistant director of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, agreed that the project would be a "game changer," for the local economy. Dragan said she expects additional businesses, such as hotels, restaurants and gas stations, to open in the area once The Summit opens in 2013.
The ripples of the economic impact will not be confined to Fayette and Raleigh counties, but will be felt throughout the state, she said.
"People are going to be traveling through the whole state to get here," she said.
Dragan added that The Summit would help to market attractions in the whole state.
West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Kelley Goes believes the long-term effect on the state's economy is "impossible to quantify." Like Dragan, Goes believes The Summit will go much further than just adding jobs and money to the local economy.
"The ability we will have to market West Virginia as a business location and a state that has a great quality of life will increase greatly," Goes said.
Matt Wender has been a county commissioner for 10 years. The Fayette County Democrat also believes the project will benefit the local economy and that of the entire state.
"This will add dollars by the way of increased employment and visitors," he said. "And it may expose the county and the state to people who didn't know we're here."
Wender does not expect large businesses, like manufacturing firms, to locate to the area because of the project. But he does think service-oriented businesses will move to the area - as may some high-technology firms.
"High-technology firms want to offer their employees the kind of lifestyle we have here," he said. "And this project will help us market that."
Benjy Simpson is the managing owner of the Bridge Walk, a 24-inch-wide catwalk that spans the New River Gorge underneath the bridge. Simpson, a long-time Fayetteville adventurer, has been in the tourism business for about 30 years.
He believes The Summit will also help market the entire state to people who used to merely pass through West Virginia on their way to other destinations.
"We used to be a pass through state," he said. "But when the kids come here, the parents will drop them off and stay."
He added that those parents may choose to travel to other locations to see what the Mountain State has to offer.
Heather Johnson is co-owner of the whitewater rafting company River Expeditions. The Oak Hill businesswoman believes The Summit will be "huge" for the local and state economy.
She pointed out that there are already talks of holding the Boy Scouts' World Jamboree at the site in 2019.
"This will be a whole new level of exposure for us," she said.
Like others, Johnson believes The Summit will also encourage business owners to open establishments such as restaurants and hotels in the area, thus creating additional jobs and revenue for the communities.
Omar Smaidi is co-owner of the Cold Spot, a combination restaurant, bar and convenience store. The Glen Jean location has already seen an increase in sales from the construction workers at the site, the 30-year-old said. Smaidi believes the economy will only improve once the project is completed.
"I think this is going to be a great for the entire community," he said. "I believe it will change the face of Fayette County."
"This is something that is really positive for the entire area," Smaidi added.
The economic impact is expected to quickly spread to nearby towns like Fayetteville, where Wendy Bayes is owner of the Cathedral Cafe. She said she expects to see an increase in her foot traffic once The Summit opens.
"And we're going to see new businesses open up," she said.
She believes the additional jobs created at The Summit will mean that the permanent population of the area will now be able to support the businesses in the community year-round.
The Boy Scouts of America plans on making an approximately $300 million investment into the community when the entire project is completed, said Mazzuca, the chief executive for the organization. About $20 million in contracts have already been awarded, with about 90 percent of those going to West Virginia companies, he said.
And about 30 percent of the state contracts have been awarded to Fayette County firms, Mazzuca added.
The Boy Scouts of America also announced another large donation during Friday's groundbreaking ceremony. The Suzanne and Walter Scott Foundation made a $25 million donation. Walter Scott Jr. is the former chief operating officer of Peter Kiewit Sons' Incorporated, a construction and mining firm and chairman of the board of Level 3 Communications.
He is a Distinguished Eagle Scout. Scott credits the Boy Scouts with teaching him how to set and achieve goals. An undisclosed, but substantial, donation from Mike and Gillian Goodrich will also help pay for the cost of constructing The Summit.
Numerous dignitaries turned out for the groundbreaking ceremony including Gov. Joe Manchin and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-.W.Va., who represents southern West Virginia.
Local Eagle Scouts were also part of the ceremonies.
Eagle Scout Caleb West, 17, of St. Albans, led the invocation and officiated over the posting of the colors. West is part of the Boy Scouts Troop No. 193.
West said he would probably not be able to participate in the activities at the camp since he is nearing the age of 18. But he does plan on returning to the site once it is completed.
"I'm really glad I get to be part of the ceremonies," he said. "This is scouting history."
Contact writer Paul Fallon at email@example.com or 304-348-4817.