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News & Current Information on Jamestown 2007

Jamestown commemoration has been 10-year voyage for organizers

WILLIAMSBURG, Jul. 30, 2006 (Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News delivered by Newstex) --

Exactly 10 months before the 1907 Jamestown Exposition, organizers were still trying to secure money and build exhibits.

A century has passed, and so much has changed. Yet with about 10 months to go before the Jamestown 2007 main event -- Anniversary Weekend from May 11 to 13 -- the 400-year observance seems to be traveling a similar path.

"We did have somewhat of a struggle through financial projections," said John H. Hager, a former Virginia lieutenant governor who was closely involved with Jamestown 2007 planning before his current job as an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education. "Things have definitely picked up now."

Jamestown 2007 has seen a number of changes in the 10 years it has taken to get this far. Key members of the management team have come and gone, fundraising projections have been reduced and plans could be scaled back in ways the public may not realize.

The commemoration comprises 18 months worth of activities, including several professionally produced special productions, called "signature events." These ventures include a three-month East Coast promotional sail of the Godspeed, a replica of one of the ships that docked in Virginia in 1607; a national education program expected to be broadcast to students across the nation; and events highlighting the accomplishments and contributions of Africans, African Americans and American Indians during the past 400 years.

Jamestown 2007, which carries a price tag of about $30 million, has three main goals: education, increased Virginia tourism and new economic development across the state. Its success may not be fully assessed for months or years after its scheduled end late next year.

"You've got to realize, we've never done this like this," said Alisa Bailey, president of the Virginia Tourism Corp. "You don't have that many 400th birthdays. In fact, you only have one."

Every 50 years since 1807, the 1607 founding of Jamestown has been observed. The 250th anniversary in 1857 was highlighted by a lengthy oration by former President John Tyler. Norfolk hosted the Jamestown Exposition in 1907 at the site of what is now the Norfolk Naval Station, attracting such notables as then President Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and Booker T. Washington. The 350th anniversary in 1957 culminated with Queen Elizabeth II's first visit to the United States as monarch. That event attracted nearly 1.2 million visitors.

Bailey said there is no way to estimate the number of people who will attend the activities associated with the 400th commemoration, although people have tried.

Earlier this year, some organizers of Jamestown 2007 estimated that more than 2 million people would participate in the different events although that projection is a rough guess that seldom has been mentioned since. Organizers received a boost earlier this month when it was announced that there would be weekly charter flights between Norfolk and Kent, England from May through October of 2007.

"You can't predict a number in a scenario like this," Bailey said. "I'm very optimistic that there will be an increase in tourism, I just can't say how many. I don't think anybody can."

Jamestown 2007 planning has survived three gubernatorial elections and a number of changes in upper management that has affected fund raising operations.

In November 1997, Norman G. Beatty became the sole hire and first director of what was then called the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation's Celebration 2007. Beatty, a former vice president at Colonial Williamsburg and leader of the Williamsburg Land Conservancy, served in different positions while planning the commemoration before he died in September 2005.

In January 2003, William W. Cone was named chief operating officer. According to an on line biography, Cone played a major role in the development of several large projects with national and international appeal, including Hands Across America for Coca-Cola, a salute to the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution for Xerox (NYSE:XRX) and Nabisco, Kodak's (NYSE:EK) 100th anniversary of the snapshot, General Motors (NYSE:GM) 75th anniversary, The Stratford Theatre Festival of Canada and an international papal event.

Cone was hired with the hope that his name would help bring major sponsors to the event. Six months later, Victor W. Clough was named the director of partnerships and sponsorships for Jamestown 2007.

Both Cone and Clough are no longer at Jamestown 2007. They declined to discuss their work with the organization.

Planning under Cone and Clough was ambitious. In November 2003, Clough was quoted as saying there were about 90 companies that Jamestown 2007 wanted to talk to about sponsorships, particularly making them "founding colony" sponsors.

Media reports indicated that the organization sought 13 corporate sponsors to contribute $3 million each as "colony" sponsors, but that level of financing has never materialized.

"To be candid, that was a marketing gimmick," said Ross Richardson, director of marketing communications for Jamestown 2007 of the number of sponsors sought.

"They chose a nice number and set the bar very high," Richardson said, referring to the $3 million figure. "The budget doesn't anticipate having 13 founding colony sponsors at that level."

Over time, the publicized cost of the entire commemoration has gone from as much as $42 million to as low as $20 million.

The current estimated cost has settled to about $30 million, with about $28 million collected so far. More than $10 million has been spent, mostly for planning, daily operations and some initial events.

Of the $28 million collected in the past eight years, more than $18 million has come from state fees and taxes with an additional $10 million raised privately, principally from three lead sponsors, THEY ARE:

--Norfolk-based Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE:NSC) , which contributed $3 million in July 2004.

--Colonial Williamsburg, which committed $3 million in January 2005. Of that contribution, $1 million amounted to in-kind services. That portion includes Jamestown 2007 Executive Director Jeanne Zeidler's $115,000 salary and $67,000 in annual rent for the two buildings that Jamestown 2007 uses in Williamsburg. Also included are hotel rooms for certain guests of Jamestown 2007 and other hospitality and business costs, Zeidler said.

--Verizon Communications Inc., which in May agreed to give $2.5 million to Jamestown 2007. Of that, $600,000 is coming in the form of marketing directed at the telecom company's employees and customers. Harry Mitchell, Verizon director of media relations, said the marketing efforts could include promotions such as messages in bills of Verizon customers and banners on its Web site.

In addition to these major contributors, Philip Morris USA and James City County each donated $500,000 and, TowneBank, based in Portsmouth, gave $250,000.

"We wish there were more sponsors, but on the whole this is a good investment for us," said Frank Brown, a spokesman for Norfolk Southern.

"We don't sponsor many high-profile events, but when we do we expect them to be high quality. We also expect them to be relevant to the participants and the audience. America's 400th birthday is highly relevant, and it is great in the respect that it doesn't come around often."

Historic commemorations have not always proven to be successful.

The Aviation World's Fair of 2003 was to be held in Newport News as a trade show and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first manned flight. Advance ticket sales lagged significantly, and the state eventually pulled its support.

"Event planners had been unable to reach minimum goals for advance ticket sales, unable to sign any major sponsors for the event and unable to generate significant exhibitor revenues," read a 2002 statement from then Virginia Transportation Secretary Whitt Clement. "These factors led the state and the city to conclude that the further use of public funds and debt service is no longer appropriate."

Four years ago, President Bush issued a proclamation creating a Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration to celebrate the journey of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark from St. Charles, Mo., to the state of Washington. The Wall Street Journal recently reported many of the planned events haven't attracted the expected turnout.

The state of Washington expected a turnout of 10 million for events, but less than a tenth showed. A similar problem occurred during a 10-day festival in St. Charles.

The most dramatic disappointment might have been in Great Falls, Mont., where the city ended up $535,000 in debt and ticket sales didn't cover the $1.6 million cost to stage various events, the paper said.

Jamestown 2007 planners are looking for a strong finish that will complement the 10 years of planning.

"This is a very intense period, and we need to maintain the quality of everything that has been done," Zeidler said.

She and Richardson noted that if need be, some events could be scaled back to save expenses but not cut out.

"The scalability is really in areas the public won't notice," Richardson said. "For instance, deciding to go from six stages to four stages isn't something the public would necessarily know had changed.

"When it comes time to decide if we need four or six stages, we'll look at the budget and see where we are and then decide."

The tourism angle already is proving to be successful, said Sandy Rives, 2007 project director for the National Park Service.

"We've already seen 5,500 people take our bus from Colonial Williamsburg to Historic Jamestowne in June," he said. "That's compared to 200 or 300 last June, so that's definitely an increase."

Clement thinks an event as big as the 400th Jamestown commemoration can be financially successful as long as there is sustained public interest, state support and a visible return on investments.

"We didn't see a return on the investment," Clement, now a lawyer in Richmond, said earlier this month referring to the aborted 2003 aviation celebration.

"With Jamestown 2007, on the other hand, there is ample evidence that there will be a significant return on the dollar, and not just in 2007, but beyond."


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