Loudoun County’s decision to give $2 million in hotel tax revenues to the Washington Redskins over eight years continues to attract attention. Now Jim Barnes reveals in The Post Sunday that county officials have hosted commercial real estate and architecture firms during its one game per year use of a luxury suite at Fed Ex Field, even though the hotel money is supposed to be used for tourism-related purposes.
Loudoun businesses who could use some of that money continue to be upset, Barnes reports. But now former county supervisors such as Jim Burton and Andrea McGimsey are also saying that the funds seem to be misspent. Burton said the county’s payments to the Redskins amounted to a “slush fund” for general economic development rather than promoting travel and tourism.
Loudoun officials defend the spending, of which another $500,000 is scheduled to go to the football team in the coming fiscal year, as useful in marketing the county. And as with much advertising, there is not always a concrete link between, say, putting up a billboard and increased revenues. It’s done to keep the brand out there and in the mind of consumers or businesses. Buddy Rizer, Loudoun’s economic development director, told Barnes, “The return [on the marketing agreement] has been there, certainly from a business development standpoint. When I’m out selling to people that don’t really know where Loudoun County is, when I tell them we’re the corporate home of the Washington Redskins, that’s a real powerful message to be able to send.”
Former supervisor McGimsey disagreed. “I’ve not been able to understand the business sense of this. I can’t quite understand paying any company for the ability to say that they have their corporate headquarters here.” She added that she doubts businesses would move to Loudoun because it is the NFL team’s corporate headquarters. Tourism is a big economic sector in the county, and there are many worthwhile efforts to invest our [hotel tax] dollars, such as making Loudoun more of a premier wedding destination.”
For a list of the businesses hosted by Loudoun during its annual use of the luxury suite, and other comments on this issue, read Barnes’s story here.