A! Magazine for the Arts

Barter Theatre's economic impact studied

December 3, 2013

Barter Theatre, Abingdon, Va., has released the results of a 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.

Celebrating its 80th season, Barter Theatre attracts more than 160,000 visitors annually. Its performances, educational programs and deep community ties have made it a draw for tourists from around the world and businesses and individuals relocating to the area, as well as a tradition for generations of local residents.

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."

According to the study, visitors to Barter spent $20.91 million in 2012, on accommodations, dining, shopping and other items. That spending 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. This generated over $3 million in tax revenue.

Steve Smith, Food City president and CEO said, "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."

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 recommended that Barter look for ways to enhance that experience.

"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 10 years as we expand the Barter experience."