A variety of sources have been dropping tantalizing tidbits about a pending announcement concerning the Greenbrier Resort. The Governor and key legislative leaders are sworn to secrecy; one source tells me they had to sign confidentiality agreements.
Even Jim Justice, the talkative owner of the famed resort, has been uncharacteristically reserved.
I’m told the reason for the security is that the announcement concerns the relocation of an existing facility in another state to the Greenbrier. Supporters of the project worry that if word gets out before the details are finalized, it could upset the deal.
However, speculation centers on a couple of possibilities: a professional athletic training facility, an NFL team training camp or another golf tournament. (The Greenbrier is already home to a PGA TOUR event.) The announcement, which could come as early as next week, is not a ski resort, though Justice reportedly has plans for that as well.
One source says the new Greenbrier project won’t be an economic “game changer,” but it will bring prestige to the Mountain State, along with more tourists.
Meanwhile, site preparation is underway on the Greenbrier property for the proposed Greenbrier Medical Institute. That $250 million project is billed as a world-class medical complex with famed physician Dr. James Andrews at the helm.
Sources say the total investment of all three projects will be around $400 million.
Last week, the state Legislature approved two tax credit programs that will benefit the Greenbrier, as well as other travel and tourism businesses. The bill (HB 4184) renewed the Tourism Development Act that provides for a tax credit of up to $25 million over ten years for certain large-scale projects.
Tax credits are a double-edged sword. Proponents argue they are important government tools that encourage business. The lost future tax dollars, they contend, are secondary to the economic gains from additional employment.
However, detractors say tax credits are tantamount to the government picking winners and losers. The competitive balance is tilted when the state reduces the tax liability of one company or one industry, but not another.
Jim Justice has his critics, those who say he can be bombastic or is sometimes slow to pay his bills. However, he has singlehandedly revitalized the Greenbrier with boat loads of his own money. Without Justice, the state’s historic resort would probably be closed and the state would not have its best commercial to the rest of the world—the internationally broadcast PGA Tour Greenbrier Classic.
And now Justice is getting ready to write another big check. We’ll find out soon just how big.