LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Saving Playhouse is the pro-business move
It turns out the grownups in the room weren't in the room at all.
Finally a group of connected leaders who understand business far better than our Board of Commissioners and our Tourism Development Authority has taken responsibility and announced a plan to save the Flat Rock Playhouse. The work's not done yet, and even if it gets to Jan. 1, the Playhouse has a deep hole to dig out of to reach the financial stability it needs.
But the community owes a debt of gratitude to the people who gathered for three hours at Commissioner Larry Young's office last week to hammer out a Playhouse rescue strategy. While the rescue could not have been possible without a $100,000 matching grant challenge from a Hendersonville benefactor, leadership came first.
Playhouse president Bill McKibbin stood and answered questions for hours during the meeting on Nov. 29 and again on Monday at a Flat Rock Village Council meeting. As we said in this space last week, Playhouse leaders can only move forward by admitting mistakes and vowing to get a handle on the business side. They have promised to hire a chief financial officer, and Flat Rock Councilman Jimmy Chandler got it right when he recommended the Playhouse get the "meanest one you can find." Not because the Playhouse needs another round of beatings but because it needs a tough fiscal boss to rein in spending, check the strategy against the balance sheet and restore public confidence in the business side of the enterprise.
Last week the gang that shoots straight replaced the one that always shoots its own foot. Among the leaders trying to save the theater were McKibbin, Jeff Miller, county attorney Russ Burrell; Dave Adams, a financial adviser; Carl Shaw, the Playhouse CPA; and Rob Wood, a former AT&T executive who is a new Playhouse Board member. On Dec. 3, two old lions of the Hendersonville business community, Bud Hunter, of the Hunter car dealerships, and insurance man Bill Penny, strongly endorsed a bailout to get the Playhouse on its feet. Numerous others who don't want to be named have helped, too.
There will be time for the howling recrimination that a segment of our community so relishes. The priority now is to stop the bleeding, patch the Playhouse up for the rest of this season and then take a hard look at the strategic business plan for 2013 through 2020.
It ought to tell the doubters something that in the end the business community has stepped up to save the Playhouse and its economic motor, not the arts people or the panderers to the mob that sit on the Board of Commissioners. Having the Playhouse here is the pro-business position, in case the commissioners haven't noticed.