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Posted August 31, 2011 | comments Leave a comment

Local firm to partner on rest areas

StrongPoint Capital chosen to put ATMs in Virginia welcome centers

By James Heffernan -- jheffernan@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- A local company has been awarded a contract as part of a new public-private partnership designed to enhance traveler services at the state's rest areas and welcome centers.

StrongPoint Capital LLC, a full-service ATM provider, is one of three firms that will partner with lead contractor CRH Catering Co. Inc., of Connellsville, Pa.

The Virginia Department of Transportation issued a request for proposals in March at the direction of Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is seeking to generate additional revenue to help defray the costs of operating the rest areas. The Sponsorship, Advertising and Vending Enhancement program is one of the first of its kind among state transportation agencies.

While fully privatizing Virginia's rest area operations is prohibited by federal law, "the SAVE program will enable marketers to effectively and cost-efficiently promote their goods and services to a significant number of motorists as they take a break while traveling through the Commonwealth, while saving taxpayers money," Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton says in a news release.

The state's 42 rest areas and welcome centers serve more than 33 million visitors annually, or about 90,000 people a day.

Under the SAVE program, StrongPoint Capital will have one ATM in each of the state's 10 welcome centers, according to managing partner Wade Zirkle.

As a small business, "it'll be a good revenue boost for us," he said.

The company's private-label ATMs can also be found in stores and hotels as well as at tourist attractions throughout the mid-Atlantic region. The machines tack on a surcharge of $2.95 per transaction, a portion of which is returned to the host site.

Welcome center visitors will also soon encounter touch-screen kiosks with information on Virginia attractions, courtesy of Ashland-based Highway Information Media LLC, and more food, beverage and merchandise choices from CRH Catering, which already provides vending services at 30 Virginia rest areas. Travelers Marketing, of Wellesley, Mass., will manage the contract's sponsorship component.

The additional products and services will be implemented at no cost to VDOT. The new contract requires CRH to pay VDOT an annual guaranteed rights fee of approximately $2 million, an increase from the $1.7 million the agency currently receives from vending and advertising. VDOT will also receive annual revenue-sharing payments based on a percentage of sales.

The contract will be for three years beginning Thursday, with four optional one-year renewals.

Zirkle credited McDonnell for considering public-private partnerships, which he said can be an answer to the revenue shortfalls the state is facing.

"The governor has been a visionary on this project," he said. "Virginia gets additional revenue, and it supports local businesses across the state."

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