Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to undergo outsourcing, layoffs amid financial troubles

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WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation will be undergoing layoffs and outsourcing of four departments amid financial troubles, Colonial Williamsburg president Mitchell Reiss announced Thursday in an open letter.

The letter, which was posted to the Making History website, chronicles financial troubles for the foundation dating back several years. In one example, Reiss said the foundation lost $62 million in 2014 — equating to a loss of $175,000 everyday.

The foundation’s golf operations, retail stores, much of the maintenance and facilities and commercial real estate management will now be outsourced.

Reiss said the foundation has asked vendors to keep employees in those four areas for at least one year. Some employees will be asked to leave, however.

As difficult as these decisions are, for as much as they impact our Colonial Williamsburg colleagues today, it would be far worse for the large majority of our employees and the future of the Foundation if we did nothing and just hoped that our financial fortunes would somehow change next year, or the year after.

Outsourcing and layoffs are two the cost-saving measures Reiss revealed in Thursday’s letter. Reiss said the Kimball Theatre will be closed down July 6.

The theater lost $782,000  over the past year, according to Reiss.

The financial burden on the foundation reached more than $300 million in debt  by the end of 2016, according to Reiss.

The foundation borrowed to improve facilities leading up to Jamestown’s 400th anniversary in 2007. Reiss said the foundation did not see “adequate financial returns” from this borrowing.

He cited changes over the last decade — including the way history is taught in schools — as factors that have impacted historical sites such as Colonial Williamsburg.

Colonial Williamsburg is attracting half the visitors it did in the late-1980’s, according data Reiss made available Thursday.

Programs and events aimed at cutting costs and bringing in revenue helped with more than  $10.4 million in financial improvements over the last two years. In fact, Reiss noted that the foundation lost loss money per day — $148,000 — in 2016.

Reiss said in the letter those measures were not enough.

The plan unfurled Thursday by Reiss has a goal of reaching financial stability by 2019.

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