Camaraderie

Connor Freebairn, of Australia, takes a selfie of scouts from his country and Holland during the World Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Glen Jean last year. Boy Scouts of America announced last week the 2021 National Jamboree will be postponed because of concerns about Covid-19.

Postponement of the 2021 National Jamboree by Boy Scouts of America is expected to decrease tax revenue by an estimated $1.2 million and to cut 350 jobs, according to data supplied by Lisa Strader, executive director of Visit Southern West Virginia.

Strader’s group is a nonprofit destination marketing organization. Funded mainly by a lodging tax, VSV aims to draw tourists to the region.

BSA announced the postponement of the event, which draws more than 40,000 Scouts and their families to southern West Virginia, last week. The scouting organization cited persistence of the Covid-19 global pandemic and the increasing number of cases of the sometimes fatal disease, which is caused by a novel coronavirus.

“Planning, preparations and decisions regarding National Jamborees take place months, and even years, in advance,” the BSA explained. “Given the current situation and the uncertain nature of future conditions, we determined we could not prepare in a manner that would provide the safest possible environment for all those involved.”

The postponement will have an impact on the local economy.

“It is, definitely, a major blow for 2021 for our region,” said Strader. “But we know that planning for that large of an event begins so far in advance that they just don’t have the luxury of waiting.”

Strader cited a 2019 economic impact study by the West Virginia University Bureau of Business Economic Research that shows the National Jamboree has a $76 million impact on the economy. The National Jamboree happens every four years.

In years without a National Jamboree, The Summit Bechtel Reserve brings in some $28 million and supports 280 jobs, injecting $1 million into state and local tax coffers.

In 2017, 40,000 Scouts from around the world, and their families, traveled to The Summit Bechtel Reserve.

The 2021 National Jamboree was originally set for July 21-30, 2021, at The Summit Bechtel site in Fayette County. Boy Scout officials said a task force will set a new date, which will be announced later.

The postponement follows a slew of cancellations of big events that provide major revenue to small businesses each year. In June, the State Fair of West Virginia was canceled. The fair typically draws in $14 million for the state.

Earlier this month, Bridge Day 2020, set for October, was canceled. The exact dollar impact was not available from Fayette officials.

One local businessman pointed out that the dollars from National Jamboree could be made up at a later date.

“There’s no question that postponement of the Jamboree will impact this community,” said local restaurant owner Richard Jarrell, who is also president of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. “Most people just don’t realize the economic impact to restaurants, hotels, gas stations, construction supply businesses, contractors, landscapers, waste companies — the list could go on and on.

“With that said, the good news is, it’s a postponement, not a cancellation.

“Cancellation of events means those dollars are gone and not to be made up — like Bridge Day,” Jarrell said. “Hopefully, we can get back on track after there is more confidence that the Jamboree can be delivered in a very safe environment, and we can showcase the greatness of West Virginia.”

Boy Scouts said the scope of the pandemic and the rising number of cases made it impossible for BSA to follow its own motto of “always be prepared,” leading officials to postpone the event.

In the United States, the biotech company Moderna and government scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reported last week they are developing a vaccine that showed promising immune responses in 45 subjects and was advancing to the final testing phase.

Vaccines are also being developed in other countries, but a vaccine is not likely to be available prior to 2021, world health officials report. Even then, it is unknown if a vaccine will offer long-term protection against infection.

Strader said there is uncertainty about tourism in southern West Virginia in 2021.

“At this point, we just don’t know what 2021 will look like,” she said. “We have had the majority of our larger events postponed until next year.

“If all goes well, we can concentrate on making the events we will have successful and look forward to welcoming the Jamboree back when they deem it safe to have and are able to reschedule.”

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