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Business Matters

Leaving Charm-Ville

Alexandria's chief tourism promoter Stephanie Pace Brown is leaving a city her organization calls “Charm-ville.” The Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association announced last week that Brown will be stepping down in June to lead the Ashville Convention and Visitors Bureau in Ashville, N.C. Brown has been president and chief executive officer of the ACVA since 2007.

“Stephanie has done a fabulous job for Alexandria,” said Mayor Bill Euille. “Tourism in the city has grown significantly under her outstanding leadership, generating more than $22 million in city tax revenue annually.”

Brown leaves at a time when the city's tourism business is thriving. In the last four years, the industry grew by 16.8 percent, drastically outpacing Price William, Fairfax and Arlington. One recent report showed that the city's tourism industry provides more than 6,000 jobs. During Brown's tenure at ACVA, visitor spending increased at a rate that was more than double the average growth in Virginia.

“She has given us an incredible gift to build upon,” said Charlotte Hall, vice president of the Potomac Riverboat Company. “When I helped form the ACVA in 1996, we could only dream of the incredible level of benefit this organization could leverage for the city and its businesses.”

When Brown assumes her new duties in Ashville, she will oversee a team of 21 individuals and a budget of $8 million. By comparison, ACVA has a staff of 11 and a budget of $3 million. One of the biggest distinctions between the two jobs is that Ashville has a tourism development fund, which collects revenue from a lodging tax.

“Working with Stephanie has been an honor and a pleasure,” said Jody Manor, chairman of the ACVA board of governors. “We will miss her in Alexandria, but look forward to building on the foundation she created.”

Free At Last

Mark your calendar and hold your wallet. Tax Freedom Day in Virginia is April 20.

Every year, the Washington-based Tax Foundation calculates the date based on the latest government data on income and taxes. This year, Americans will work more than three months into the year before they have earned enough to pay for tax obligations at the federal, state and local level.

“This year, Americans will pay $2.62 trillion in federal taxes and $1.42 trillion in income for a 29.2 percent tax bill,” said economist Bill McBride, who helped calculate the date. “That means taxpayers will pay more in taxes in 2012 than they will spend on food, clothing and housing combined.”

Conceived by Florida businessman Dallas Hostetler in 1948, Tax Freedom Day has fluctuated over the years. The date furthest into the calendar was May 1, 2000. The earliest date calculated by the foundation is Jan. 22, 1900, when taxpayers forked over only 6 percent of their income in taxes. This year, Connecticut has the largest tax burden and will mark its freedom on May 5 while Tennessee has the lowest tax burden and already breezed through its emancipation on March 31. Virginia ranked 11 among states in terms of total tax burden.

“Tax Freedom Day is a vivid, calendar-based illustration of government's cost,” said McBride. “And it gives Americans an easy way to gauge the overall tax take.”

Towers for Sale

Folks at Hunting Towers are about to get a new landlord. For several years, the high rise towers at the southern edge of Old Town have been owned by a very unusual entity - the Virginia Department of Transportation. The state agency purchased the three towers to facilitate construction of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. One tower was demolished to make way for the southern half of the bridge.

Now that construction has been completed, VDOT is planning to put the properties on the market later this year.