WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was at The Greenbrier Classic on Saturday, meeting with business representatives and lauding the state’s multi-million dollar investment in the tournament.
Since 2010, when the resort first landed the PGA tournament, West Virginia has paid more than $5 million to sponsor the event. With the sponsorship, the state gets tickets near the 18th hole to use for face-to-face interactions with business leaders, Tomblin said in an interview at the resort on Saturday.
“That’s quality time that’s very hard to get if you’re running all over the world to make these contacts to get multi-billion dollar contracts,” Tomblin said.
Tomblin isn’t saying which businesses he and other state leaders have met with recently, but he said there has been a good return on the state’s investment from previous years.
Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said that The Greenbrier was the catalyst for other companies’ decisions to do business here.
Among the companies recently choosing to build in West Virginia are Carbonyx, which has a facility planned in Ravenswood, and Odebrecht, a Brazilian firm planning a petrochemical facility in Wood County.
“From our development side, we’re able to bring in prospective clients from around the world,” Tomblin said. “Last year we had them from several countries in Europe; we had them from several countries in Asia and South America.”
Tomblin also defended spending $1 million on this year’s sponsorship, despite the state cutting $500,000 from the state Tourism Division’s advertising budget this year.
Tomblin said that publicity from The Greenbrier makes up for the cut.
National TV coverage has shown picturesque mountain views all week. Commercials for The Greenbrier Hotel have also aired.
On Saturday, a CBS commentator called West Virginia the nation’s “best kept secret” as the screen showed blue skies and aerial views of morning fog in the mountains.
“Exposing what we have to offer here in West Virginia is a great investment of our money, especially with the media,” Tomblin said. “When you have the national commentators just bragging the whole time on what a great course, what a great venue this is, that advertising is kind of hard to buy.”
The tournament has also brought in thousands of visitors from all over the country, said Chelsea Ruby, the communications director for the state Department of Commerce.
Ruby said that the Tourism Division’s booth had seen visitors from 31 states and four countries at the resort this week.
Tomblin also spoke about his hopes for the new medical center and Saints practice facility planned near the Greenbrier.
Tomblin said that while Greenbrier owner Jim Justice hasn’t yet applied for what could end up being $25 million in tax credits, he’s confident Justice would qualify.
At issue is that the Saints would only practice at the multi-million dollar facility for about a month each year.
To qualify for the specific tax credit, the facility must be used for at least 100 days per year.
Tomblin said other football teams could end up using the facility to make up the difference, though he didn’t give details on potential prospects.
“I would think so,” Tomblin said when asked if the facility would be used for the required 100 days. “Somebody’s got to be using it for the 100 days in order for the Greenbrier to qualify.”
Tomblin said the Saints would also bring added tourism revenue to the state.
“They have a huge fan base that follows them to be able to watch their practices and so forth,” he said. “That will be drawing additional tourism dollars to the state of West Virginia.”
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