We launched Hunter Higgs, LLC one year ago in an office overlooking Paul Revere’s grave in Boston’s historic Granary cemetery. We are so close that we can mark time by the shouts of “The British are coming.”
In January 2010, there were only a few tour guides leading tourists to Revere’s headstone. The graveyard is quiet in winter. Hunter Higgs started out quietly, too. We had an office, two computers, maps of the state legislative districts and a 12 foot tall window onto the Granary cemetery.
Through the spring, summer and fall—every 10 minutes—we hear through our window that the British are coming. The tour guides were back—busy guiding Boston’s visitors through America’s history.
We were busy, too, guiding our clients through the legislative session. From the quiet of those early days a year ago—setting up phones and a new website—we are now in the thick of the noise and bustle politics and advocacy.
Here are some of the highlights of our work in the past year:
Regional Tourism Promotion
In January 2010, we signed our first contract with the Massachusetts Visitor Industry Council (MVIC) to advocate for increased funding for regional tourism promotion. The regional tourism promotion funding had been cut by 72% from $9 million to $2.25 million. Working with tourism advocates across the state and the lobbying firm of McGlynn & McGlynn, we persuaded the Legislature to double the funding for FY 11 to $4.5 million.
Rolling the Dice on Aretha Franklin
Last year, Massachusetts sought to join 30 other states in legalizing casino gambling with dueling proposals in the House and the Senate. Hunter Higgs represented the interests of a coalition of performing arts centers in the casino gambling debates.
What does casino gambling have to do with performing arts centers? Good question.
Most people don’t realize that casino resorts—like Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut—build large entertainment venues that present concerts, comedy and theatrical shows that directly compete with existing performing arts centers. Competition is certainly fair; but in general, the casinos only use entertainment to lure people to the slot machines. Consequently, they sell tickets at a loss and pay the performers a bonus. In exchange for the bonus, the performer agrees not to perform within a 100 mile radius for 6-12 months. This prevents popular acts from playing theaters like the Hanover in Worcester, Lowell Memorial Auditorium and the Springfield City Stage. These non-profit and municipally owned theaters book popular acts to pay the bills and keep the lights on.
Our goal is to make sure that Aretha Franklin, Denis Leary, Jerry Seinfeld and Willie Nelson can be seen in person in our downtown theaters. But, our goal is more than that: downtown performing arts centers are essential to the revitalization of downtown areas. As one Springfield developer said, “You cannot revitalize downtown Springfield without a vibrant performing arts center—the Springfield City Stage gives people a reason to come downtown and one that fills the restaurants and the shops.”
So far, we have been successful in making the case for the downtown performing arts centers. In 2010, casino gambling legislation did not become law – but the House version dedicated mitigation funding to the performing arts centers and the Senate adopted protective regulations that limit casinos to distributing 1000 tickets for comedy, theater and concerts.
Happy New Year. We continue to add new clients and welcome any inquiries.
Stay tuned to High Above Paul Revere for all the news from Hunter Higgs in 2011.