Town Talk 02/20/20: Hopper Discusses McGregor Hall’s Municipal Funding Request

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THIS STORY IS PRESENTED IN PART BY DRAKE DENTISTRY

Mark Hopper, operations director of McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center and chair of the Embassy Cultural Center Foundation, appeared on WIZS Town Talk Thursday at 11 a.m.

Hopper discussed McGregor Hall’s recent open-ended request for funding from the City of Henderson and Vance County, supporting the proposal with information gleaned from a recent economic impact study completed by the Municipal Research Lab at NC State University.

With an operations budget of approximately $500,000, Hopper said the center is maintained by one full-time employee, three part-time employees with a combined 20 hours per week and the help of volunteers who “go above and beyond.”

“That is an extremely lean budget for a facility like ours,” Hopper said. “Most facilities like ours our operating in the $800,000 to a million-dollar budget range.”

Providing a brief history of the building of McGregor Hall, Hopper explained that the Embassy Cultural Center Foundation fundraised for the $9 million center. Six months before opening, one pledge fell through, according to Hopper, and the Center owes a remaining $2.9 million through a low-interest USDA loan with an approximate annual payment of $124,000 a year.

The center is now requesting assistance from the City and County to offset this debt payment every year. An exact dollar amount was not specified in the request.

Hopper said McGregor Hall, with seating for 1,000, is breaking new ground as the only performing arts center in the state with over 750 seats not connected with an educational institution that does not receive any kind of municipal funding.

While McGregor Hall staff and volunteers are proud of being a pioneer of sorts, Hopper said management of debt, City and County funding and increased staffing are essential for continued growth and sustainability.

“Our primary goal is not really an artistic one,” Hopper expressed in a sentiment that he has shared in previous interviews with WIZS. “Our primary purpose in our formation was an economic one. We intended to be an economic stimulus in downtown Henderson.”

According to the results of McGregor Hall’s economic impact study, the center is achieving that goal. During the 12 month study period prior to April 2019, McGregor Hall was directly responsible for injecting $2.4 million into the Henderson economy and was responsible for 5.5% of all economic growth in Vance County over the past three years.

“Taking that kind of economic presence out of the Vance County and Henderson economy right now would be absolutely devastating. We want this to grow and get even bigger. We are starting to see some really exciting things going on in downtown Henderson and we feel we’ve had a big part in making that happen,” stated Hopper.

To hear the interview with Hopper in its entirety, go to WIZS.com and click on Town Talk.

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