Macon County Business Owners Tout Victoryland’s Effect on Local Businesses | Business
Tuskegee, Ala. – A group of long time Macon County business owners held a news conference today to speak about the negative effect Victoryland’s 2 year closure has had on the overall business climate in the county. The pari-mutuel racing and e-bingo gaming facility re-opened just before Christmas of 2012 at a much smaller capacity.
“My family and I have operated Thomas Hardware for over 30 years. We did ok when the dog track came in, and we really took off once they brought in the bingo,” Brent Thomas said. “We’re off over 30% on our business, and I’ve put my son in charge and basically retired because we can’t afford to pay both of us.”
While Victoryland had a large hotel and banquet facility before it closed to avoid raids in 2010, many visitors chose to stay at local hotels and eat at local businesses. The absence of tourists has affected local businesses such as Taliaferro’s (pronounced “Tolliver’s) restaurant and The Floral Park Motel.
Jerry Peterson, owner of Taliaferro’s was clear about the effect Victoryland had on his business: “I was born and raised in Tuskegee, but spent 23 years as a policeman in New York City. I came home to Tuskegee and I put a significant chunk of my retirement money into opening this restaurant. We had a steady business of tourists, locals, military folks and everybody in between. I had former New York Knicks player Willis Reed visit, comedian Dick Gregory, and The Commodores ate here every time they were in town. When Victoryland closed, and all those local jobs went away, we just couldn’t make it. They have 300 people out there now as opposed to 2300 – and there’s nothing else around to give people a good income to be able to eat out at restaurants like mine.”
Bobby Cooper, owner of The Floral Park Hotel, said he was afraid his business could end up like Mr. Peterson’s. “My mother started this motel 53 years ago, and we’ve been running it ever since. We used to have several employees, but now it’s just my wife and I running the entire place – and there are times during the week when I’m lucky to have even one customer. We’re a small motel , and we’re not fancy, but we have clean rooms and we’re affordable – we just need more people coming through the town so we can fill up these rooms, or we won’t make it much longer.”
Both Cooper and Thrower said they had seen a modest uptick in business since Victoryland reopened last December.
Event organizer, and one of the leaders of the effort to make sure Victoryland stays open, Andy Hornsby, was very clear about the economic situation in Tuskegee, “When you take $52 million out of the economy of a small county like this, what do you expect? There’s no doubt the machines are legal, and we need to make sure the ABC Board issues them a liquor license, and the AG and others just leave us alone.”
Information Source: Mowery Consulting Group
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