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Mark Hopper, chairman and operations director for McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center, was on Wednesday’s edition of WIZS’ Town Talk to discuss the recently unveiled results of the Center’s economic impact study.
Conducted by researchers at NC State University, the months-long study found that McGregor Hall has a significant impact on Henderson, contributing $2.3 million to the local economy in the past 12 months alone.
According to lead researcher Dr. Jeffrey Diebold, who stated that one common criticism of studies is that numbers can often be skewed to the desired outcome, the McGregor Hall figure represents a conservative estimate.
“This [study] was as conservative as it could possibly be; we took no liberties. We wanted to represent the benefits as accurately as we could, so at every juncture where we had to make an assumption, the assumption was as conservative as we could make it,” Diebold reported to WIZS.
For Hopper and others associated with McGregor Hall and the Embassy Cultural Center Foundation, the results are confirmation of years of working to make a shared vision a reality for the community.
“We are thrilled we were able to accomplish what we said we were going to accomplish. The visionaries for the project said 15 years ago that they wanted this kind of facility to be an economic engine to revitalize Henderson,” Hopper said. “It’s a very proud moment for our Board and volunteers that we have done what we promised to do.”
The $2.3 million represents new spending from non-resident visitors flowing into the local economy, spending that was deemed by the NC State team to be a direct result of events hosted at McGregor Hall.
According to the study, the majority of this spending is associated with the emergence of Henderson as a destination for regional dance competitions. Each of these dance events brings thousands of visitors from states across the southeast for weekend-long competitions.
Ultimately, this weekend of travel means the dancers, their family members and supporters boost the local economy by purchasing hotel accommodations, meals, entertainment and more.
McGregor Hall also hosts a number of local performances, touring Broadway productions, musical and comedy acts, social events and more.
As part of their study notes, researchers indicated that the relationship between McGregor Hall, Vance County and the City of Henderson should be “one in which funding the theater is a key component of the county and city economic development, tourism and cultural budgets.”
Currently, McGregor Hall is operated through private funding and does not receive financial support from the City or County.
“To my knowledge, McGregor Hall is the only venue of that size – 1,000 seat category – that does not receive city or county support or have a connection with an educational institution,” Hopper stated.
In fact, Hopper said the arts center is “writing the book” on operating without public funding.
“Most of the colleagues we have in the industry are surprised we are able to make a go at it the way we are. Most facilities have their staffing, and many have a significant portion of their facility, covered by public funds.”
Hopper is hopeful that study results will help pave the way for future funding discussions.
“We feel like we can make an even bigger contribution economically if we are able to staff adequately,” said Hopper. “We want to expand our programming to where it needs to be to have the full impact of a real world-class venue.”
To hear Hopper’s Town Talk interview in its entirety, please click the play button below. Listen live to WIZS’ Town Talk Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on 1450AM, 100.1 FM or online at www.wizs.com.
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