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The Tamarack at the Beckley Service Area in Beckley, West Virginia.

Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia: is a tourist destination located at Exit 44 above the Beckley service area of the West Virginia Turnpike. It features a red peaked roof and landscaped grounds that draw over 500,000 visitors annually [1]. This large arts and crafts facility is run as an economic development project of the West Virginia Parkways Authority and sells West Virginia craft products, such as wood, glass, textiles, pottery, metal, jewellery, as well as specialty food items, fine art, and West Virginia books and recordings. There are five resident artisan studios and most weekends from Spring through Fall there are also craft demonstrations. Check Tamarack's schedule of events for live music, theatre, storytelling and other performances. A Taste of West Virginia Food Court features signature dining options from a Greenbrier Hotel-trained Executive Chef. There are six resident artists on-site, who may be available to give demonstrations throughout the day. Tamarack also houses a 178-seat theater that offers live music, theatre, dance, storytelling and other performances. The complex also boasts a conference center, which was added in 2003.

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History

Tamarack opened in 1996 [2] and was the first statewide collection of "handmade crafts, arts and cuisine" in the United States [3]. Its enormous popularilty with out-of-state visitors has turned it into a regular destination for many and a model economic development project. At least a dozen states have contemplated building centers similar to Tamarack.

Since its construction, Tamarack has generated over $70 million in revenue. At any given time there are at least 10,000 unique products on display from about 1,200 juried West Virginia artisans, food producers, authors, performers and fine artists. [4] Over five million visitors have visited the complex.

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Audit

On January 8, 2007, a report from the West Virginia Performance Evaluation and Review Division stated that the Tamarack has been running a deficit for several years [2]. According to the report, Tamarack costs the West Virginia Parkways, Economic Development and Tourism Authority, which operates the West Virginia Turnpike and the Tamarack, $2 million to $2.5 million annually.

Tamarack generates over $7.5 million per year from retail and food sales. It also provides about 158 jobs though direct employment at the facility. Although the profits have yet to cover the $1.2 million payment for construction bonds for the facility, [5] it is apparent that this does not consider the indirect economic benefits, which have not yet been fully studied.

Many supporters criticized the report as being biased, stating that Tamarack cannot be judged solely based on profit from Turnpike motorists [2][6]. The report ignored sales to wholesalers and to other businesses, and also ignored derived economic benefits. Visitors to Tamarack increase tourism in the region, especially to attractions like New River Gorge and Winterplace Ski Resort, and utilize hotels, restaurants and gasoline stations in the Beckley region [6]. The Tamarack Foundation, a private 501(c)(3) non-profit, operating as an adjunct to Tamarack, offers a wide range of programs for artists and craftspeople across the state. These programs include business training, mentoring, education, professional development and enhanced business and martketing opportunities." [6].

Said Greg Barr, General Manager of the West Virginia Parkways Authority, which oversees Tamarack,

"Tamarack is not just a business. That’s where they’re missing the mark. It’s there to support and nurture the artisan industry... It’s a benefit that should not be solely determined by what the bottom line of that bricks and mortar facility is." [4]

Lawmakers do not intend to make any changes to Tamarack's operation [6][2], as it is an "incomparable showcase of mountain crafts and arts, it serves an important function for West Virginia" [7].

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References

  1. ^ The Best of West Virginia. Tamarack. 24 March 2004 [1].
  2. ^ a b c d Darst, Paul. "Tamarack Supporters Critical of State Report." State Journal [Charleston] 11 Jan. 2007. 12 Jan. 2008 [2].
  3. ^ Tamarack - The Best of West Virginia
  4. ^ a b Porterfield, Mannix. "Manager, artisans defend Tamarack." Register-Herald [Beckley] 8 Jan. 2007. 12 Jan. 2007 [3]
  5. ^ "Tamarack likely to stay open despite financial drain" Herald-Dispatch [Huntington] 8 Jan. 2007. 12 Jan. 2007 [4]
  6. ^ a b c d Byrd, Bill. "More than a storefront." Times West Virginian 11 Jan. 2007. 12 Jan. 2007 [5]
  7. ^ "Tamarack Center Important to W.Va.." News-Register [Wheeling] 9 Jan. 2007. 12 Jan. 2007 [6].

See also

External links


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