Friday, February 15, 2008

Damn Those Grapes For Making Washington State Money! How Dare They!

Beware - - she's on another rant. Run for cover!

A few weeks ago I read a letter to the editor in the local paper. The writer was from Milton-Freewater, Oregon (which is 10 miles from Walla Walla, WA) and she was complaining, not only about the wineries in Walla Walla selling the heathen devil's juice, but also complaining about a new Harley-Davidson sales room that was going downtown Walla Walla. Yup, the last thing we need in Walla Walla is another winery contributing to our state/county/and city revenue, let alone encouraging the sorted bunch of ruffian outlaws like the local doctors, attorneys, bankers and funeral directors to buy another Harley-Davidson for their collection. How silly this person is. And my answer to her is: If she doesn’t like wine and Harley-Davidsons in Walla Walla, then stay in Oregon. As it is in Washington State, as a courtesy to our Oregon neighbors, we do not charge them sales tax on their purchased items. It is a courtesy depending on the retailer and there is no law in Washington or Oregon that says we cannot charge tax to an Oregon resident. Therefore, I think the next time this woman comes over to Washington we should charge her tax for breathing our Washington air.

So last week I ran into an acquaintance and of course we talked about the weather. Then the bad weather conversation led us to the poor conditions of the streets in the city of Walla Walla. Out of her mouth, she said, “They won’t put any money into our streets, but "They" sure will put money building another winery.” Sigh - - here we go again...who are these people by the name of “They” and why do “They” cause so much trouble?

I couldn’t keep my mouth shut on that one and spoke out to this acquaintance. “The city is in charge of budgeting and maintaining the streets in Walla Walla and the wineries have nothing to do with it. The money that is spent building wineries is all private. So you think that a private party wanting to build a winery should repair a city street instead?”

What is she thinking? She owns a small business, herself. Perhaps the next time she invests more money into her lipstick inventory, she should give her profits to a street pothole instead. I wanted to continue the rant, but didn’t. Narrow minds do not open very far and sometimes people only hear what they want to hear and often speak like parrots with no thought to what comes out of their mouths. And what they don’t understand is that wineries and grapes have contributed a lot to the economy in Washington State and especially in Walla Walla. The first of the month the Washington State Wine Commission and the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers announced the results from a study regarding the economic impact of the Washignton State wine industry. The 2006 study showed wine and wine grapes are worth $3 billion annually to the state. The Washington State wine industry contributed 19,000 jobs with a payroll of $579 million. An increase of 8,000 jobs from the 11,000 wine industry jobs reported in 1999, from the previous study. Revenue from Washington State wineries have increased to $436 million in 2006 from $289 million in 1999. Also, from 1999 to 2006, the number of wineries have increased from around 150 to more than 400 and at this time, the state is over the 500 count. Wine tourism in the state has blossomed - - greatly! In 1999, 350,000 people visited wineries and wine-related events in Washington State. In 2006, the count increased to 1.7 million people, and dollars from wine tourism brought in $237.6 million!!!

Those who complain about wine tourism in Walla Walla need to step back and look at the big picture here. Tourist to Walla Walla is nothing new. I suppose one could look at Lewis and Clark as the original tourists back in 1805-1806. In 1927, the grand Marcus Whitman hotel was built to hold all of the tourists who were visiting Whitman College, the symphony and theatres and the downtown shopping. And if you really go back into history, downtown Walla Walla was full of hotels and some of those old buildings still remain. In the 1970's with the boom of the malls all over the nation downtowns like Walla Walla became run-down looking ghost towns with nothing to offer and old grand buildings became poorly maintained with old facades from the 1950's. Finally in the 1990's, at least in Walla Walla, wineries started popping up, restaurants followed, the Marcus Whitman Hotel received a major facelift and voila - tourists! And tourists created jobs and incoming revenue!

So the whole point of my rant is that how can you argue with that kind of return? And if that disturbs your little closed minded life, then what are you doing to contribute to the healthy economy of Walla Walla? Do you have any better ideas?

4 comments:

2centz said...

I agree with your comments in general. Wineries, like all businesses, pay their share of business related taxes which inevitably results in funding to the city and county (to be used as those entities budget and direct.) And, of course wineries provide employment -- a good thing for those desiring those jobs and wages. However, I think many citizens in Walla Walla would agree that wineries fall far short when one looks at their contributions to the greater community. They are low on the list of businesses contributing to general community causes and needs. How many wineries give generously to Fort Walla Walla, the YMCA, the Blue Mountain Community Foundation for example? (I'm not employed by these organizations.) Wineries and their related partners should do more to be visible community citizens. Contribute time and money to the community at large -- not just those functions that are high profile for the wine industry which can seem self-serving. And, yes, I'm affiliated with the wine industry and think we can all do more!

Catie said...

Hey 2centz,

Thanks for writing. Yes, you are right. When it comes to contributing money and especially time, we can always do more, no matter what the industry is. In the past, I have been very active in many local non-profits and from my experiences with those non-profits many of the local wineries have been very generous when it comes to donations of wine for auctions, door prizes, etc. And as you probably know, but maybe readers may not know, is that the asking for donations from wineries do not just stop with Walla Walla non-profits. Local wineries are asked by many non-profits from the Tri-Cities area, Spokane, Portland and especially the Seattle area.

But like you stated - we can all do more.

Cheers,
C~

Steve Bjerklie said...

The wine industry in Walla Walla does in fact contribute a great deal to "the greater community."
For starters, the various wine auctions held throughout the year, where wines donated by the
wineries, including several special or otherwise rare bottles, always benefit charitable causes. Less
directly, many of the wineries actively use biodynamic, organic and/or sustainable farming
practices, which contribute to the long-term environmental health of the community.

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