Buncombe County Commissioners voted along party lines March 4 to approve $90,000 for Moogfest. The music and innovation festival requested the county funding to help produce the event, which will run April 23-27 at venues across Asheville.
Moog Music and Moogfest President Mike Adams said the event will be a major economic boon to the area — to the tune of $30 million. He estimates that it will bring in $238,000 in tax revenue, more than paying back the county grant. The company is investing about $3 million in the festival, he said.
After three years of partnering with renowned concert promoter AC Entertainment, the festival is taking a different direction this year to emphasize more than music. Moogfest will include a job fair and other events focused on cultivating the local creative technology sector and economic development. And with 52 percent of ticket buyers making an average yearly income of more than $100,000, Adam’s said, “we’ve accomplished our objective of attracting the right people to this event.”
He projects that the five-day festival will fill 34,000 hotel room nights with attendees. The county investment will help the festival be a major catalyst for local jobs and creative industry, he said.
All four of the Democratic Commissioners expressed strong support: Board chair David Gantt, Vice Chair Ellen Frost and Commissioners Holly Jones and Brownie Newman.
“You can’t get more local than this,” said Vice Chair Ellen Frost. “What a bonanza for our hoteliers to have full hotels in the middle of the week.”
The business community is “coming behind this event,” said Commissioner Brownie Newman. “The conference has really been redeveloped around being a technology and job development project,” he added. “It could really be a signature event for this community.”
Two of the Republican Commissioners also said they support the festival’s goals, but didn’t feel the grant is an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money.
“I don’t know how they’re going to accept us handing out $90,000 to a private company,” said Commissioner Mike Fryar, who previously joined his colleagues in unanimously approving several incentive packages for private companies to expand last year, including $18.38 million for GE Aviation.
Commissioner Joe Belcher told Adams: “I really like the direction you’re going. … In the future we’re going to see some very positive things out of it.” However, he argued that the festival should seek funding from corporate sponsors rather than the government. Fryar and Belcher’s GOP colleague David King also voted against the funding, offering no public comments.
The county action follows a $90,000 package approved by the city of Asheville last month, bringing the local incentives to a total of $180,000. However, the city’s deal drew criticism from Council member Gwen Wisler, a Democrat, who cast the lone vote against it. Soon afterwards, the Buncombe County Young Republicans group circulated a flyer on various social media sites criticizing the spending.
Tickets for Moogfest range from $199 to $499, though some discounted tickets have been offered to locals and an allotment of free tickets was distributed as “scholarships” to local educational institutions. Some events, such as the technology job fair, will be open to the public free of charge.
Headlining musical acts include Kraftwerk, M.I.A., Pet Shop Boys and Q-Tip.