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Urgent - The Virginia Horse Center Needs Your Help!

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  • saungier@mindspring.com
    MessageYour letters of support on this critical budget issue are needed. All of our disciplines need to pull together to support this facility as it has a
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2004
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      Your letters of support on this critical budget issue are needed.  All of our disciplines need to pull together to support this facility as it has a significant economic impact on the equine industry as a whole, as well as the Lexington community.
      Letters should be sent in as quickly as possible.  Lethia has provided the guidelines below.
      Sally Aungier
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 2004 2:31 PM
      Subject: Urgent - The Virginia Horse Center Needs Your Help!

      Dear Friends of the Virginia Horse Center:
      The Virginia Horse Center needs your help!
      The Virginia General Assembly created the Virginia Horse Center in 1984.  The Governor appoints the members of the Virginia Equine Center Foundation responsible for overseeing the Center's operations, and once the construction debt is paid in full, the Commonwealth of Virginia will own the land and improvements, including those paid with private donations.
      The approach taken by the 2003 General Assembly in cutting the state's annual appropriation to pay for the Center's original capital construction costs would not allow the Virginia Horse Center to survive.  Please contact the legislators listed below as soon as possible and make the following three points:
      1.  The Virginia Horse Center has a tremendously positive economic impact on the Commonwealth of Virginia
      2.  The Virginia Horse Center, and when needed, the private Virginia Horse Center Foundation, have always been responsible for operational costs.  The public sector, through the General Assembly, has, in the past, always paid the original capital debt necessary to build the Virginia Horse Center. 
      3.  The approach taken by the 2003 General Assembly in severely restricting debt service payments and curtailing them by 2006 will not allow the Virginia Horse Center to survive.  The General Assembly needs to fund the original debt service (used to purchase the land and pay for capital construction) from Fiscal Year (FY) 2004 through Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, so that the Horse Center may remain viable.
      It is very important that all correspondence be respectful and polite in nature.  We have worked hard to clarify former misconceptions about the Virginia Horse Center and build good will among legislators.
      Please contact each of the Budget Conference Committee Members and the Speaker of the House.  Their names and e-mail addresses are listed below:
      Senator John H. Chichester - district28@...
      Senator William C. Wampler, Jr. - district40@...
      Senator Walter A. Stosch - district12@...
      Senator Charles J. Colgan - district29@...
      Delegate Vincent F. Callahan, Jr. - del_callahan@...
      Delegate Lacey E. Putney - del_putney@...  
      Delegate Phillip A. Hamilton - del_hamilton@...
      Delegate M. Kirkland Cox - del_cox@...
      Delegate Johnny S. Joannou - del_joannou@...
      Speaker William J. Howell - del_howell@...
      All individuals should be formally addressed as The Honorable.  For example, Delegate Hamilton is The Honorable Phillip A. Hamilton, the Virginia House of Delegates.  In the salutation, he should be addressed as Dear Delegate Hamilton.  The following individuals hold special positions in the General Assembly and should be addressed as follows:  Senator Chichester is the Chairman of the Senate Finance Commitee, and in the salutation, he should be referred to as Dear Mr. Chairman.  Delegate Callahan is the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and should be referred to as Dear Mr. Chairman.  Delgate Howell is the Speaker of the House of Delegates and should be referred to as Dear Mr. Speaker.
      I would appreciate receiving a blind copy of your correspondence for our records.  If your software does not have that capability, you may forward a copy to me at lhammond@... after you have sent the original messages.
      To assist you in drafting your message, talking points about the Virginia Horse Center and Virginia's equine industry are listed below.  We do not want all of the electronic messages to sound exactly the same, but they should all include the three points listed above.  If you have moved to or located or expanded a business in the Commonwealth as a result of Virginia Horse Center operations, please make that point as well.
      Thank you very much for your assistance.
      Lethia C. Hammond
      The Virginia Horse Center Foundation

      Virginia Horse Center’s Impact on the Tourism Industry


      The Virginia Horse Center attracts over 400,000 visitors each year. 


      60% of Horse Center visitors come from out-of-state


      Each show exhibitor brings an average of 3 people with them who combined generate over $3,000 in direct taxable spending during their stay.


      According to a 2001 study conducted by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Policy at the University of Virginia, (the 2001 study), lodging sales generated by the Virginia Horse Center generated nearly 30 % (506 rooms) of all lodging sales in the Rockbridge County area.  Since the study was conducted, three new hotels have been built within a mile radius of the Horse Center.  Reliable Reservations, a private reservation company, estimates that over 40% of all lodging sales are now generated by Horse Center visitors.


      Since Virginia Horse Center operations began, six new hotels have been built within a five radius of the facility and a seventh is under construction.


      The Virginia Horse Center captures a significant amount of in-state tourism dollars that would otherwise be spent at out-of-state equine facilities.


      The Virginia Horse Center hosts over 80 events each year over 280 show days.


      Following the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon travel decreased significantly throughout the Shenandoah Valley.  However, visitors to the Virginia Horse Center increased significantly providing a stabilizing force in Virginia’s tourism industry.


      According to Reliable Reservations Service, during the Lexington Spring Premiere and Encore shows in 2003, a million dollars in hotel sales were generated in the Rockbridge area alone during the two-week period.  The event drew 700 horses from twenty states.


      Virginia Horse Center Contributions to the Commonwealth’s Equine Industry


      The Virginia Horse Center was created to revive and enhance the state’s declining equine industry and the results have been phenomenal.


      Virginia now ranks as the 5th largest equine state in the U.S. surpassed only by Texas, California, Missouri, and Tennessee.


      The total value of all equine in Virginia is $1.46 billion dollars.


      Equine sales in Virginia are approximately $1 million annually making equine the 7th largest agricultural commodity in Virginia.


      Each year $500 million is spent in Virginia caring for equine.


      In 2001, the equine industry generated over $800 million in business sales and created 22,000 jobs in Virginia with a payroll of over $352 million.


      Numerous small businesses have been created to service the state’s equine industry and Virginia Horse Center exhibitors.


      A number of declining agricultural properties have been purchased and preserved by Virginia Horse Center enthusiasts, breeders, and trainers relocating to Virginia from out-of-state.


      The Virginia Horse Center regularly attracts top competitors from throughout the country and around the world.


      Private Investment in the Virginia Horse Center


      Private donations to the Virginia Horse Center have totaled nearly $10 million dollars.  Over 95 % of these donations have come from private individuals.


      The Horse Center and the Commonwealth have been able to leverage private donations making the Virginia Horse Center one of the finest equine facilities in the country and enabling it to compete with facilities in neighboring states that are fully state funded.


      The property and improvements purchased with private donations will ultimately become the property of the Commonwealth of Virginia when the capital construction debt is paid.


      Increasingly public-private partnerships are encouraged as a means of financing state and local government projects. Private investors noting the potential loss of private donations, should the Virginia Horse Center default on its debt service payment and be forced to close, will be less likely to support public-private partnerships in the future.


      Average Exhibitors at the Virginia Horse Center


      64% of all horse owners throughout the United States have a total household income of less than $75,000 annually.  Only 21% have incomes in excess of $100,000.


      Each year over 300 youth from across the United States attend the United States Pony Club show held at the Virginia Horse Center.


      4-H events are held annually at the Virginia Horse Center, attracting thousands of youth and their parents from throughout the Commonwealth.


      Annual therapeutic riding shows have been held at the Virginia Horse Center for the past 11 years.


      Hoofbeats Inc., a local, nationally accredited therapeutic riding facility, has submitted a letter of intent to build a national Special Olympics and Make-A-Wish Foundation facility at the Virginia Horse Center, paid entirely with private donations.



      Virginia Horse Center General Talking Points


      According to the 2001 study, for every dollar the state has invested in the Virginia Horse Center, nearly three dollars in sales taxes are returned to state and local governments.  These numbers were conservative at the time the study was conducted, and are low now.  Since 2001, Horse Center operations have grown 20%.   It is now estimated that nearly $4.00 in tax revenues are returned for every dollar the state has invested.


      According to the 2001 study, direct expenditures in Virginia by visitors to the Virginia Horse Center and the Horse Center itself total over $30 million annually.


      These expenditures have a total impact of at least $41 million of the state’s economic output.


      In 2001, Horse Center activities accounted for over $3.4 million in state and local tax revenues, of which $1.9 million went to the state and $1.5 million to local governments.  Because Horse Center operations have grown significantly since 2001, tax revenues generated have also increased tremendously.


      In 2001, the Virginia Horse Center added a second covered arena and two additional barns.  The expansion has allowed the Horse Center to host multiple, large events simultaneously, drawing more profitable events and attracting greater numbers of top competitors.


      According to the 2001 study, over 700 jobs have been created throughout the state as a result of spending at the Virginia Horse Center.



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