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Virginia Leaders Cite Concerns: Williamsburg-Area Brewery, Amusement Parks May Be Affected

July 14, 2008

By Juan Antonio Lizama, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.

Jul. 14–Some Virginia leaders expressed concerns last night about the impact that InBev NV’s reported buyout of Anheuser-Busch Cos. will have in the state.

“It’s a jolt,” Hugh Keogh, president and chief executive officer of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, said last night. “We have a great regard for [Anheuser-Busch]. I hope there won’t be any distraction or disruption of employment.”

Keogh said Anheuser-Busch has been a significant investor in Virginia for nearly four decades and that he hopes that continues.

In addition to its Williamsburg-area brewery, Anheuser-Busch also owns Busch Gardens and Water Country USA amusement parks and Kingsmill Resort in the area. Those attractions have brought in tourists and are a good marketing tool, said Clyde Haulman, vice mayor of Williamsburg.

“What are they going to do now? That’s the question,” he said. “For us, that sort of synergy between the various components has been important for this community and its base economy. If those split in some way, what is that going to mean for the role that they’ve played in the past?”

The Williamsburg City Council passed a resolution Thursday praising Anheuser-Busch for the positive role it has played in the community and calling for the federal government to closely scrutinize the takeover by InBev.

Rep. Robert J. Wittman, R-1st, seconded Haulman’s comments, saying Anheuser-Busch has been a great partner in Virginia.

“I certainly have concerns about who would take over Anheuser-Busch and making sure that it’s going to be a good corporate partner in Virginia,” he said.

Wittman said he hopes that InBev comes into Virginia with the desire to continue Anheuser-Busch’s legacy of partnership.

“They certainly don’t have the corporate history that Anheuser-Busch does,” he said. “I hope that they see this as an opportunity to create one in Virginia.”

Whatever InBev does will have a profound effect on the tourism industry and job market in the Williamsburg area, Wittman said.

“Those are an intricate part of the economy there,” he said. “I hope [InBev keeps] that in mind.” Contact Juan Antonio Lizama at (804) 649-6513 or jlizama@timesdispatch.com.

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Copyright (c) 2008, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.

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