A 35-year veteran of the hospitality industry, who has frequently been involved with developing marketing plans to reinvigorate under-performing luxury resorts, was selected Thursday to become executive director of Tamarack.
Parkways Authority members voted Thursday to hire Jim Browder, who most recently was president of the Lexington, Ky., Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, to become the fourth executive director of the Beckley-based artisan complex.
“Jim has made a career of turning around properties,” said Parkways Chairman Jason Pizatella, who also is deputy chief of staff to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. “We’re asking him to come up with a business model to turn around Tamarack.”
Since the distinctive, quilt-inspired complex opened off of the West Virginia Turnpike in 1996 at a cost of $16 million, the showcase for West Virginia artisans has never met the goal of being self-sufficient, and has seen a downturn in visitors, retail sales, and food sales in the past year.
“We just aren’t getting enough customers to buy,” Parkways deputy general manager Dwight Trent said Thursday. “They’re coming in and looking, but not buying.”
Authority members voted to hire Browder Thursday, following an extensive search that involved more than 100 applicants and interviews of seven finalists.
Pizatella said Browder’s background in the retail, tourism and hospitality industries made him the ideal candidate to run Tamarack.
“Mr. Browder is the total package, and we’re lucky to get him,” Pizatella said.
Browder, a Radford University graduate, had most recently been president of the Lexington CVB for nearly three years, before resigning abruptly this May, according to news accounts.
Pizatella said Browder’s mission will be to develop Tamarack into a travel destination, not simply a stop-off for travelers on the Turnpike. That could include reviving a proposal to add a hotel to the complex’s retail sales floor, plus art studios, a conference center, theater, art gallery and food court, he said.
“I wouldn’t totally rule it out,” Pizatella said. “It’s something we’re going to ask Jim to consider.”
Browder will not be a state employee, but will be under contract to W.C. Workshop Inc., the Wyoming County based non-profit organization that manages the day-to-day operations of Tamarack.
Pizatella said he hopes to have Browder on-board by Oct. 1.
He said Browder’s wife is from Hinton, and said they plan to live in a residence they own in the Summers County town.
Reach Phil Kabler at email@example.com, 304-348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.