More than $300 million in debt, Colonial Williamsburg has been forced to outsource some functions and cut staff.

One of the best, long-standing American Colonial History attractions, Williamsburg has experienced a sharp decline in attendance over the last few years.

Colonial Williamsburg is an educational goldmine, but it also costs a pretty penny to visit and enjoy. Even with steep prices, the foundation is struggling to stay afloat. While they’ve cited a lack of interest and “less American history being taught in schools”, it appears the Foundation over-extended itself, moving outside of its core competency of historical education.

Local news reported:

“The Foundation will be outsourcing our golf operations, our retail stores, much of our maintenance and facilities operations, and our commercial real estate management. As we’ve entered into these outsourcing agreements, our primary consideration was that our employees be treated fairly and respectfully,” Mitchell B. Reiss wrote in an open letter to the Colonial Williamsburg Community. “After a series of tough negotiations, we have required each vendor to retain every employee in these four areas for at least one year. If employees in these four areas decide to join their new employer or if they decline to do so, they will receive a generous severance payment from the Foundation.”

Reiss said part of their money woes stemmed from a sharp decline in attendance.

“For a variety of reasons – business decisions made in years past, less American history being taught in schools, changing times and tastes that cause us to attract half the visitors we did 30
years ago – the Foundation loses significant amounts of money every year,” Reiss said. “In fact, in 2014, we lost a total of $62 million, or $176,000 every day. This is not acceptable, and it is not sustainable.”

We can no longer do everything the way we did it in 1976, or 1986 or even 2006,” he said. “We must take these difficult decisions today.”

Employees who lose their jobs will be given “generous severance and unprecedented transition services,” he said.

“Even though I am confident that these actions will return the Foundation to financial stability and allow us to continue to share America’s enduring story, there is no denying that this is a very tough day,” he said. “If there was any other way to save the Foundation, I would eagerly have taken it. But there isn’t. For the first time in years, we now have a detailed, comprehensive plan – and an opportunity – to return the Foundation to stable financial health.”

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