ABINGDON, Va.- The Virginia Chamber of Commerce celebrated Virginia's ranking as the best state in the nation for business with a gala on Oct. 29 that also honored Barter Theatre of Abingdon, Va.
The banquet recognized Virginia corporations whose achievements and corporate citizenship have brought great honor and pride to the Commonwealth and capped the 2008 Virginia Economic Summit, an event held at the Richmond Marriott and attended by more than 300.
Barter Theatre was named the Overall State Winner for Small Companies for The Torchbearer Award, an honor that highlights Virginia's world-class corporate citizens, old and new, and underscores our state's unparalleled attractiveness as a business location.
Sponsored by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Virginia Business Magazine the prestigious Virginia Torchbearer Awards recognizes innovative companies whose outstanding products, services and management practices have propelled Virginia's progress and prosperity in recent years.
Following a statewide nomination process, resulting in a strong field of contenders, six winners were selected by a blue-ribbon panel of judges. The categories included; one overall state winner representing large companies, one overall winner representing small companies and four regional winners, one each from Central Virginia, Northern Virginia, Western Virginia and Hampton Roads.
Barter is the only non-profit to be nominated or recognized with such an award since the inception of the Torchbearer Awards in 1999.
Richard Rose, Barter Theatre's producing artistic director since 1992, accepted the award. "It's a great recognition of all of the hard work by Barter's Board, staff, artists, craftsman, volunteers and patrons to make Barter into the great organization that it is today," said Rose.
"We are very excited and proud to present the Torchbearer Awards because they underscore the tremendously positive impact that the business community has had on the economy and quality of life here in the Commonwealth," said Hugh Keogh, president and CEO of the Virginia Chamber. "As we celebrate their accomplishments, we also look at how to maintain the vibrant pro-business environment that helps create quality jobs and build prosperity for all Virginians."
With its unique beginnings in the Great Depression, Barter Theatre has a 75-year track record of resiliency and innovation. Under the guidance of Producing Artistic Director Richard Rose, Barter's annual attendance has grown from 42,000 in 1992 to its current level of more than 160,000 and the annual budget has tripled. Additionally, Barter Theatre is now one of the top ten employers in the Town of Abingdon with 135 full-time employees and an additional 125 seasonal and part-time employees throughout the year. Led by Rose, Barter has also completed significant capital improvements to both theatres, the addition of The Barter Caf? as well dramatic improvements to Stonewall Square during his tenure.
Barter Theatre has also grown its artistic and educational programming to better serve its community. Barter is now able provide access to the arts for over 40,000 students each year. Without these programs, students in the region would not have access to live professional theatre.
This focus on growth and service has made Barter Theatre a cornerstone for economic development in Southwest Virginia, driving a tourism economy in Abingdon that tops $160 million each year. Barter works enthusiastically with new and existing businesses and with economic development offices to provide visiting executives with the tools they need to attract key employees to the region. Rose represents Barter and the region on various boards, including the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, The Southwest Virginia Economic Development Group and Southern Highlands Attractions.
In 2002, Barter received the prestigious Business of the Year Award for the Tri-Cities, Virginia/Tennessee region. Barter has also received The Silver Award, presented by the Horizon Interactive Awards, in recognition of Barter's groundbreaking distance learning program.
The State Theatre of Virginia, the world famous Barter Theatre, is celebrating its 75th anniversary season of producing professional non-profit theatre in the Appalachian Region. Known for outstanding musicals, comedies, dramas, new and Appalachian works and award-winning educational programming, Barter Theatre, Barter Stage II and The Barter Players present programs several times a week. Patrons can see up to five shows in two days in beautiful downtown Abingdon.