Raceway becoming an economic magnet

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Since reopening 10 years ago, Virginia International Raceway (VIR) has been a success — and not just to the benefit of its own bottom line. A study says that the motorsports resort in Alton near Danville has regional economic impact of $77.5 million a year and supports more than 1,500 jobs.

VIR also provides $1 million in tax revenues to Danville and Pittsylvania and Halifax counties, according to the study by Richmond-based Chmura Economics & Analytics.

VIR hosts 480 events a year, including pro, club car and motorcycle races. It also rents facilities on other days for club events, off-road driving, school activities and private vehicle tests.

First opened in 1957, VIR was revived by New York real estate developer Harvey Siegel and Martinsville native Connie Nyholm. They invested $30.8 million between 1998 and 2008 to redevelop the racetracks, create an industrial park and a technology park, build the Lodge at VIR and Paddock Suites and develop related businesses.

VIR, which employs 365 workers, has direct and ripple effects on area hotels, restaurants, catering operations, retail shops and construction and maintenance services businesses. There are 11 companies located in VIR commercial parks in Halifax County. The report notes that VIR has played a key role in attracting new research enterprises to the area, including the Virginia Institute of Performance Engineering Research.

Direct visitor spending linked to VIR totals $44.9 million annually, more than half of which is spent in Danville, the study says. Jeremy Stratton, the city’s economic development director, says that the study provides solid numbers that he can use to help attract new restaurants and shops. “If they’re sitting on the fence worried about whether they’ll get enough business, this lets them know who eats at the restaurants and how much they spend,” he says.

A less tangible benefit from VIR is its penchant for drawing top motorsports owners and drivers, many of whom own other business or are corporate executives. “They’ve gotten pretty familiar with the region and they might think of us and what we have to offer when they think about expanding their operations,” Stratton says.

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