EDA in Focus
EDA Director Jennifer McDonald parlays casino winnings into real estate investments
FRONT ROYAL – “Do you want my Charles Town winning story or is that too light – should I give it to a competitor?” Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Director Jennifer McDonald asked in a late January text.
“Give nothing to ‘no one’ other than your old pals at Royal Examiner,” came this reporter’s stern reply. How light of a story, was the follow up question as the competitive juices settled a bit.
“Somebody saw me win big at Charles Town on Sunday (Jan. 14) and is now telling everyone,” McDonald replied, expressing a desire to see the story told accurately. “What, you don’t trust social media and word of mouth to accomplish that?” I wondered. “What did you do, hit a Trifecta on the ponies,” I asked. No, rather it was an $18,000 slots jackpot at Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino.
“WOW, how many days and dollars were you up there pulling those one-armed bandits before THAT happened,” I asked by phone a short time later. The answer, delivered the following day at her office with some support documentation, was not what was expected.
With questions having arisen in the past year about real estate investments she made in recent years under the banner of her personal real estate company “Da Boyz” (named for her favorite NFL team, which she said I could note WITHOUT my descriptive team adjective), McDonald thought this series of events offered an opportunity to clear the air, not only about her Sunday, January 14 winning trip to Charles Town and Hollywood Casino, but what she explained were about three or four years worth of comparable visits.
Do what – comparable how?!?
McDonald explained that she used to spend a little money playing the penny slots, taking home an occasional payout of $300 or so now and then – enough to keep you interested. She credits her sister with development of a strategy that when a penny slot win would come in, to take $100 or $200 of that up to the next level slot, the dollar machines.
“I did that and started to win $1200 to $1500 and then she said, ‘Take $100 or $200 of that to the next level; and on her advice I kept doing that and it just has worked for me,” McDonald said. We asked if the “system” worked for her sister as well as it has for her – “No,” McDonald replied with a sympathetic laugh.
She said winning hits on a dollar machine can come in around $1,200 to $2,500, and the $5 machine payoffs can come in anywhere between $3,000 to $15,000 – and of course there is the potential for one of the specialty jackpots hovering around $18,000 to $75,000.
Okay I reasoned, that is the theory that keeps people returning to casinos the world over – that BIG payday just over the horizon – but you know what they say about “a sucker born every minute” and “the house always wins in the end”.
McDonald explained that she will utilize “free slot play” or house money that regular customers may receive as an incentive, and “no more than $200 of my own money, and if I don’t hit anything with my free-slot play or my $200, I leave. About the last four years I have been extremely lucky with this system I have right now,” McDonald said.
How lucky, we asked.
McDonald slipped a sheet of paper across her desk with a series of typed dates and numbers. Scanning the sheet, I realized that the 22 lines taking up about half a page reflected only four days, November 22 and 26, and December 3 and 10; the payout amounts ranged from $1,500 to one of those apparent jackpots of $36,000. The most hits in one day were 12 on December 10 – the first five on that date ranged from $1,270 to $3,000, followed by $8,000 and that $36,000 jackpot, followed by five more payouts between $2,000 and $6,000, totaling around $71,000. Some late calculating indicated the total on the page for the four days shown was just over $102,000.
There was also a total at the bottom – “These numbers obviously don’t total THAT number,” I observed. “Look under that page,” she suggested. Six more full pages of dates and payouts were listed.
“THOSE add up to THAT number,” I guessed of the final page total of over $800,000, a number she explained reflected her winnings from her visits to Hollywood Casino in 2017. And if not as good, her totals from the previous two years were also significant, both totaling over $500,000, she said.
“I have taken the money that I’ve won and I have paid for the educations of my stepdaughter, two of my nieces and my stepson. I bought myself a truck; and the remaining I decided last year that I was going to start investing the money, rather than just letting it sit. So, I started to acquire investment properties … and I’ve been able to make significant deposits on them,” she said of her real estate investments under Da Boyz banner – at least somebody using that nickname is good at something, I suggested, drawing a scowl.
As she has explained before to Royal Examiner, in her position as the EDA executive director, McDonald is forbidden from investing in commercial real estate. However, with her background in real estate, she may invest in residential property.
“My goal for this year is to win enough money to invest in some additional properties,” she added. In addition to that January 14, jackpot hit for $18,000, she produced photos on her phone of hits of $6,000 and $24,000 on January 2, pointing out there were others she had not photographed.
Happy New Year, indeed!!!
Okay, while not a gambler by nature even your humble reporter can see that something beyond luck is at play here – I pressed her for a hint at the “system” she must not be sharing – “There’s got to be more to it; can you whisper it in my ear? Just between us. – You can trust me, I’m a reporter,” I reminded her.
But other than a favorite “quick hit” dollar machine, McDonald said there wasn’t a system other, apparently, than Lady Luck. Speaking of luck, she said she did hit one $75,000 jackpot on that favorite “Quick Hit” dollar machine – I guess it is her favorite!!!
Looking at these winning-date visits averaging three to maybe six a month at Charles Town, we suggested some teetotalers might suggest she has a silly, little gambling problem. Of course, I think a wise man once said “it is only a problem if you are losing,” not if you’re threatening to break the casino bank. McDonald estimated that she may leave empty handed about a third of her visits, usually being able to net at least several hundred dollars in winnings. She said her visits are dictated by work and personal schedules. As for leisure time, when you’re hot, why not? – And if you’re not, go home early.
With such a disciplined approach, we asked how much she had to spend to reach the level of winnings she was describing for the past several years. She produced another tax reference with a worried look – no wonder, it read $666.
“Well, THAT explains a LOT!!!” I offered.
“You have assistance from the dark side – at least you’re not averaging $666 in annual expenditures, are you,” I asked edging my chair closer to the door. She explained that amount was an adjustment to her taxes to cover her own money spent above what the casino had deducted when it took taxes out upon payment of winnings.
After a little research she estimated averaging about $1,000 of her own money per year to achieve her winnings. Recalling her system of moving up the slot ladder with lower-tier winnings, we asked if she thought she might actually be spending more house money than her own to realize her winnings.
“I most definitely have. They sometimes have drawings over there and I have won additional free slot play through those – anywhere from $250 to $1000 free slot play in addition to my weekly free slot play. I love winning on their money,” she concluded with a smile.
Other than developing a “system” where she may be utilizing more house money than what she brought with her, what draws her to Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino, we asked.
“I have tried other casinos and I have not found a place that has a staff that is as polite, and helpful as Charles Town. I feel safe when I go over there; they know you by first name – I just love going there because of the atmosphere,” she said.
HEY, what’s not to love about an atmosphere of personal dominance, where in the end only the house is supposed to dominate? Our guess is she may love going there more than they love seeing her coming these days – or not.
Chances are the unlucky on any given night at Hollywood Casino outnumber the lucky – and hearing this story, that number is likely to go up – THAT ought to be worth a few more “free slot” plays, think …
Front Royal-Warren County EDA gears up for its Open-Door Business Session: An opportunity to shape Warren County’s future
In an effort to foster regional economic growth, the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) has announced its next Open-Door Business Session. The event is scheduled for Thursday, June 1, from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm at the Warren County Community Center, located at 538 Villa Ave, Front Royal, VA 22630. This event is a part of the EDA’s continuous initiative to strengthen Warren County’s workforce development and enhance the economic prosperity of the region.
The two-hour session will be packed with presentations, open discussions, and plenty of networking opportunities. The main focus of the event will be the exploration of Warren County’s workforce development prospects, overcoming related challenges, and celebrating its successes in economic development. Participants will have a chance to engage in meaningful discussions and network with key players influencing Warren County’s economic landscape.
While pre-registration for the session is not compulsory, the organizers have encouraged interested parties to RSVP by Tuesday, May 30, ensuring they don’t miss out on this influential meeting. Those interested can register via the provided link.
The Front Royal-Warren County EDA is known for its commitment to fostering an environment conducive to economic growth. Hosting these Open-Door Business Sessions, they provide a platform where individuals, businesses, and community members can discuss and strategize on various economic development issues, paving the way for a more prosperous Warren County.
Don’t miss this opportunity to engage with the local community, network with important stakeholders, and directly contribute to the future of Warren County’s economy.
For more information on the event and registration details, visit the REGISTRATION LINK.
EDA in Focus
Front Royal-Warren County EDA holds productive monthly meeting with updates on financial statements and new business
The Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority held its monthly meeting on Friday, April 28, 2023, and all seven board members, legal counsel, and the County Director of Economic Development were present. Board Member Bruce Townshend participated remotely. The meeting started with committee reports, and Board Chair Scott Jenkins provided updates on recent meetings and the Avtex Conservancy Property progress.
The Treasurer, Jim Wolfe, and the Director of Economic Development, Joe Petty, gave an update on the EDA financial statements, and Mr. Wolfe provided a review of the recent kick-off meeting for the Small Business Loan Committee and proposed next steps for the committee. The next Open-Door Business Session, which is rescheduled to June 1, will focus on the workforce, with more details to come.
Under new business, Mr. Petty provided an update on the draft EDA & County MOU, which updates the existing fiscal agent agreement to include current and future operational support between the two organizations. The board then held a closed session to discuss the potential disposition of real property to business prospects and legal consultation on active litigation.
Following the closed session, the board approved two motions. The first granted permission for Laurel Ridge Community College to temporarily utilize the parking lot on Kendrick Lane for their CDL class from May 15 to June 30. The second motion asked the County to perform appraisals on EDA-owned properties at 1321 Happy Creek Road and Stephens Industrial Park.
The next regular monthly board meeting will be held on Friday, May 19, 2023, at 8:30 am, at the Warren County Government Center. The meeting was a productive one with important updates on committee reports, financial statements, and new business. The board’s approval of motions to grant permission for Laurel Ridge Community College and perform appraisals on EDA-owned properties demonstrate the board’s commitment to improving economic development in the area. The upcoming Open-Door Business Session in June will also provide opportunities for members of the community to learn about the board’s efforts to improve workforce development.
EDA in Focus
Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority launches USDA Rural Development Loan Program to boost small business growth
On Tuesday, April 25, 2023, the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s Small Business Loan Committee held an informational work session at the Warren County Government Center Caucus Room. The meeting aimed to introduce committee members to each other and to provide an overview of the USDA Rural Development Loan Programs. These programs offer low-interest (1 percent) loans to local lenders who then re-lend to businesses in rural communities in order to improve economic conditions and create jobs. The Loan Committee discussed the next steps during the meeting, including applications, outreach, and review processes.
To qualify for the program, intermediary lenders can be nonprofit corporations, public agencies, cooperatives, and federally-recognized tribes, while individuals, public or private organizations, or other legal entities can apply for intermediary loans as “ultimate recipients” provided they meet certain criteria, such as being U.S. citizens or permanent residents, not owing a delinquent debt to the U.S. Government, and not being able to obtain affordable commercial financing elsewhere. The project must also be located in an eligible rural area, and the applicant must have no influence, legal or financial interest in the work of the intermediary lender.
The Front Royal-Warren County EDA will administer a Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) to provide financial incentives for the expansion of existing local industries or commercial business ventures and for the attraction of new industries or commercial business ventures to Warren County. The RLF will be utilized to ensure that a maximum number of jobs will be created and retained, the local and regional industrial base is broadened, and the Warren County property tax base is broadened. In reviewing the employment impact of the proposed loan, priority will be given to those projects which create (and in some cases retain) jobs that pay a minimum of 1.5 times the federal minimum wage.
Eligible activities include site purchases of industrial land, relocation costs incurred in construction and occupancy of the facility, new construction or rehabilitation of existing buildings, machinery and equipment acquisitions, start-up operating costs, and working capital (capped at 25 percent of total project cost). Eligible applicants are industrial or manufacturing firms where goods are assembled, re-assembled, modified, manufactured, or produced at the job site, wholesale and distribution enterprises, and commercial enterprises that establish new businesses, expand existing businesses, create new jobs or save existing jobs.
Local businesses can benefit from this program as it offers low-interest loans to intermediary lenders who then re-lend to businesses in rural communities. This can help to improve economic conditions and create jobs, while the RLF provides financial incentives for the expansion of existing local industries or commercial business ventures and for the attraction of new industries or commercial business ventures to Warren County.
Watch the meeting on the exclusive Royal Examiner video.
EDA in Focus
Newly aligned County EDA Asset Committee views a path forward at Avtex site among other business recruitment options
The newly aligned County-overseen Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Asset Committee sat down to establish an overview of the work ahead at a committee meeting officially convened at 3:10 p.m. Thursday afternoon, April 20. Present were the full committee lineup of Jori Martin and new board and committee members Hayden Ashworth and Rob McDougall, along with Warren County Director of Economic Development Joe Petty. Martin chaired the meeting.
Following a 20-minute open meeting during which jump-starting the long-dormant development of the 148-acre Avtex/Royal Phoenix business park site, along with development of the larger Conservancy Park area between the business park and Shenandoah River, was a primary topic of conversation, the board adjourned to Closed/Executive Session. The motion into closed session indicated behind-closed-door: “Discussion of disposition of publicly held real property … at Stephens Industrial Park, 1321 Happy Creek Rd., and 400 Kendrick Lane … and legal advice related thereto …”
As it was a committee meeting without the full board, no action or announcements out of closed session were anticipated. However, with concerns expressed by former EDA board Chairman Jeff Browne and former Asset Committee Chairman Greg Harold concerning possible pressure from the board of supervisors in an election year to unload EDA properties to what might not be the best long-term prospects in order to show some immediate EDA revenue recovery, it will be interesting to see how this topic proceeds toward full EDA board consideration and potential action. Browne and Harold’s terms, which expired February 28, were not renewed by the supervisors despite both applying for reappointment.
Did not seeing eye to eye with supervisors on property sales priorities lead to replacement of two longest-tenured EDA board members?
Dynamics of the two-pronged Avtex properties redevelopment included the possible transfer of ownership of the Conservancy Park property inside the town limits to the County to enable Parks & Recreation Department maintenance and oversight. Having the Town on board with plans for the Conservancy Park area which will connect various in-town locations to foot and non-motorized transportation trails was cited. Also how that transfer of ownership would impact the County financially, and its Parks & Rec Department work and personnel-wise, was broached.
Martin also pointed out to her new colleagues that for the most part, related infrastructure at the Avtex site to support development was in place. “So, it would be being able to support these trade sectors that are listed, which is kind of right following the goals that we were looking at as we review the RFI (Request For Information),” Martin said regarding EDA marketing strategies moving forward. “I would suggest that we make it an agenda item for the main (EDA board) meeting, that we put it as a formal item on the agenda and focus on what’s been sent as the draft RFI. It has been reviewed by our attorney. And it has been reviewed by the prior EDA board. And what I’d look for from our next committee meeting that we could come out of that meeting and get a full board vote on support to move this RFI forward.
“And the process of that before it went out would be to get on the agenda for the Town and the County as well, so that they would review the RFI — they would have input into it as well. And then at that point, once all parties weigh in, we would at that point hopefully by June or July, send that RFI out to prospective companies that may want to get a vision plan and development plan for the Avtex site. That’s kind of what I’ve been working on before, the committee had been working on before you came on the board. And that’s where we are,” Martin said in bringing her new colleagues up to date on development prospects, particularly at the long-floundering former federal Superfund and Avtex property redevelopment site.
In addition to the “Avtex Redevelopment Site Review”, topics broached in open Asset Committee meeting prior to the closed session included “GO Virginia Grant Opportunities” and a “FR-WC EDA Property Overview”. Martin cited the EDA’s eligibility for grant opportunities due to meeting certain criteria, calling it a “wonderful opportunity” for redevelopment funding assistance at the former Avtex property site, and the recruitment of new business to the community there or elsewhere.
The now fully-manned, seven-member EDA Board of Directors will have its regular monthly meeting this coming Friday morning, April 28, at 8 a.m. at the Warren County Government Center.
EDA in Focus
Warren County Economic Development Authority’s regular meeting agenda revealed for April 28, 2023
The Warren County Government Center’s Caucus Room will be hosting a regular meeting of the Warren County Economic Development Authority on April 28, 2023, at 8:00 am. The meeting is set to commence with a call to order, followed by the adoption of the agenda and approval of the minutes from the previous meeting held on March 25, 2023.
The meeting will then proceed with reports from various committees, including the Executive Committee, Asset Committee, Finance Committee/Budget Update, Board Members Updates, and Warren County Director of Economic Development Update.
The meeting will also feature new business items that include an open-door business session for June, a County Payment Memo, and an EDA & County MOU. The closed session that will follow at 9:00 am will focus on four matters and two matters, where discussions will involve the disposition of publicly held real property and consultation with legal counsel pertaining to actual or probable litigation.
Any additional new business will be discussed before the meeting concludes with an adjournment at 10:00 am. Stay tuned for updates on the outcomes of the Warren County Economic Development Authority’s meeting.
EDA in Focus
FR-WC Economic Development Authority Small Business Loan Committee to hold first meeting: Learn about USDA Rural Development Loan Programs
The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA) has announced that its Small Business Loan Committee will be holding its first meeting on Tuesday, April 25th, at 2:00 pm in the Warren County Government Center’s Caucus Room. The meeting will provide an opportunity for the committee to get acquainted with each other and learn about the USDA Rural Development Loan Programs. The agenda for the meeting and reference materials from previous years are available for those interested in attending online, and a Teams link will be provided for this purpose.
Some of the FR-WC EDA Board of Directors will also be present at the meeting, and they will be available for discussion and to answer any questions that attendees may have. This meeting is an excellent opportunity for small business owners in the Front Royal-Warren County area to learn about the available loan programs and how they can benefit from them.
The agenda for the meeting includes a call to order at 2:00 pm, followed by welcome and introductions. The committee will receive an overview of the existing loan program and hear from the USDA Rural Development at 2:30 pm. The meeting will then move on to discuss the next steps, including applications, outreach, and the review process. The meeting will conclude at 4:00 pm with a discussion of upcoming meetings.
Small businesses in the Front Royal-Warren County area are encouraged to attend the meeting, as it presents a unique opportunity to learn about the loan programs available to them. The FR-WC EDA is committed to promoting economic development in the area, and this meeting is just one way they are fulfilling that commitment.
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