harvester 2014

File photo

Work nears completion on the Harvester in early April 2014.

Five years after hosting its first show, the Harvester Performance Center is starting to show its worth.

Despite naysayers and the fact that no current financial information is available, Harvester CEO Matt Hankins delivered an update that appears promising.

He listed facts and figures such as the 100 jobs he said the Harvester has helped create in the area. It wasn’t clear what those jobs are because there are only a handful of paid staff at the music venue. He also said 42,000 people visited the performance center last year and the Harvester is on track to beat that number this year.

The Harvester is making strides as evidenced by Rocky Mount’s proposed 2019-20 budget, which recommended reducing the town contribution to the center by 10 percent. The town currently subsidizes nearly $400,000 of the venue’s annual cost. The proposed budget calls for $355,000 to cover personnel, utilities and maintenance. The budget also showed the Harvester paying a monthly rent of $7,100 for the first time. The town purchased the Harvester building in 2011 and the venue opened in 2014.

In addition, the Friends of the Harvester recently was established as a nonprofit organization. Hankins said the group carries the goal of one day raising enough funds to underwrite the downtown venue.

Business owners attended the recent update in a show of support for the venue. All said they had seen a positive impact from the music venue in town. Lodging, restaurants and retail businesses all said they have had customers who were in town for a show. Claiborne House owner Amy Worley said the Harvester played a big role in her choosing to reopen the bed and breakfast when deciding what kind of business she wanted to start. She said she studied what drew people to Franklin County outside of the natural resources such as Smith Mountain and Philpott lakes and outdoor recreation.

An economic impact study conducted by Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development in 2018 determined the Harvester had impacted Franklin County to the tune of nearly $1.1 million in 2016 or approximately $3 for every $1 the county spent on the venue.

It will be interesting to see the figures Hankins said will be presented to the Town Council in the next few weeks and how those figures stack up against taxpayers’ investment.

By all accounts so far, despite not being self-sustaining within three years of opening as originally forecast, it appears the Harvester is paying off for Rocky Mount. If empty storefronts continue to fill and more people continue to be attracted to the community, the Harvester could rock the region in a positive way.

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