Report details suggestions for growth in Woodstock
Woodstock is considering recommendations from a state economic development group for spurring growth.
Beth Doughty and Brian Shull of the Virginia Economic Developers Association-Cardinal Community Assistance Program reasoned that Woodstock is in a strong position to develop a new tourism economy.
“I believe that the findings of the Cardinal report align well with what council set forth in the towns strategic plan,” said Woodstock town manager Angela Clem. “We will be working with council and the EDA to meet these objectives.”
Doughty and Shull visited Woodstock on Oct. 5.
“The opportunity lies in the legacy brand of the Shenandoah Valley, natural beauty, outdoor amenities and creation of destination tourism attractions that draw more dollars from outside the area and keep them in Woodstock,” they wrote in a report presented to the city.
The outdoor recreation industry creates $59.2 billion annually in state and local tax revenue in the United States.
It is estimated $646 million is spent in Virginia on outdoor recreation.
The key is to provide unique experiences, whether in lodging, attractions, activities and retail.
Some examples they cited:
“Development as a state park with amenities needs to be an advocacy priority so that the town can benefit from such a unique and extensive asset,” they wrote.
“This unique asset could be leveraged through organized activities such as an annual “bucket list” race to the top that could potentially attract people from around the country searching for a unique recreation experience,” they wrote.
The annual Blue Ridge Run marathon in the Roanoke region has a yearly impact of about $1 million, they stated in the report.
Rails to Trails
“The abandoned N-S (Norfolk – Southern) rail line, stretching through the entire town, is another unique asset whose development should be a priority. It will round out the other assets by a low barrier to entry for participants and as a quality of life amenity,” they wrote.
They cited the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 35-mile trail from Abindon to White Top, as a similar successful venture stating that it attracted businesses such as bike rentals, lodging, food, outfitters and others to serve the thousands of people who use the trail every year.
The report also talked about promoting the creation of places to stay.
Doughty and Shull suggested Woodstock should implement a program to encourage the development of diverse lodging alternatives, such as bed & breakfast, RV camping and unique camping rentals — such as cabins.
They proposed the town consider analyzing the pros and cons of shifting plans to use the abandoned Woodstock High School as town offices and consider maybe instead repurposing the building for lodging, given its location right next to the proposed Rails to Trails path and close to downtown.
The report suggested Woodstock officials consider using underutilized real estate by turning those buildings into co-working space for telecommuters or small entrepreneurs. The space will support retail activity if it was downtown, they stated.
Considering the agricultural heritage of the area, Doughty and Shull offered an example of a commercial kitchen that could be shared by cooks working out of their home
The town has tools to help it achieve the goals set forth in the report but could implement a couple more.
The Cardinal report suggested the town put in place historic tax credits that help develop downtowns. They also suggested the town create economic revitalization zones that offer incentives for new construction.