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Grape, wine study estimates $173 million economic impact

A study commissioned by Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus shows the Arkansas grape and wine industry “greatly” contributes to the economic strength of the state, generating millions of dollars in jobs, tourism and tax revenue.

Conducted by Frank, Rimerman & Co. of St. Helena, Calif., the leading research source on the U.S. wine industry, and funded by an Arkansas Agriculture Department specialty crop block grant, the study estimates the full economic impact of the Arkansas grape, wine and related industries on the state to be more than $173 million.

“Moreover, wine and their products and allied industries diversify local economies and create employment and new market opportunities,” noted the study, which was released late Thursday (Sept. 27) by ATU-Ozark.
 
The figure – based on 2010 data – includes nearly $23.7 million in federal, state and local tax revenue paid, as well as more than $21 million in tourism revenue as a result of roughly 306,000 visitors to Arkansas wineries.

“The wineries of Arkansas are a great tourism attraction for us, not only for the wine and other products, but also for their reflection of Arkansas history,” said Richard Davies, executive director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
 
The study notes: “Wine, grapes and related industries also accounted for approximately 1,668 jobs in Arkansas with an associated payroll in excess of $42 million,” adding that the 13 wineries in the state provide 78 full-time equivalent jobs “with a payroll totaling approximately $3.6 million.”

“We’re very appreciative of the Arkansas Agriculture Department and this opportunity,” Ken Warden, chief business and community outreach officer for Arkansas Tech-Ozark, said in the statement. “Hopefully, this study will draw deserved positive attention and foster increased support for the wine and grape industry.”

Following are other findings and statements in the study and Thursday’s statement.
• “Statistics alone do not adequately measure the intangible value the wine industry brings in terms of overall enhanced quality of life, limitation of urban sprawl and greater visibility for the state of Arkansas worldwide,” noted the survey. “Accordingly, the figures provided in this report should be viewed as a conservative baseline measure of the economic impact, as the true impact of the Arkansas wine industry, including tangible benefits is much better.”

• Zach Taylor, director of marketing for the Arkansas Agriculture Department, said, “Agriculture adds almost $17 billion in value per year to Arkansas economy. A very important part of that is from the state’s wine and grape sector. ... The Arkansas Agriculture Department works to make sure that the state’s wine and grape industry remains a significant part of our states heritage.”

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• Arkansas ranks 21st in the country in total wine production, yet the retail value of Arkansas wine sold in 2010 is estimated at $20.3 million with actual sales generated by the wineries themselves totaling $11.4 million.
 
• In 2009, ATU-Ozark Chancellor Jo Blondin and other campus officials increased the level of support for the grape and wine industry by beginning to offer technical certificates in viticulture and enology.

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