After two years of anticipation, Andrew Wommack welcomed Mayor Dave Turley, city officials and dozens of business leaders in a reception to introduce The Sanctuary, which includes Charis Bible College and a 2,500-seat auditorium in Phase II.
A nonprofit organization, Andrew Wommack Ministries closed the school in Colorado Springs and built a new campus on part of the 157-acre plot purchased for $4 million from Eddie and Carol Sturman. The property includes the Littlestar Lodge.
However, the organization with keep its offices in Colorado Springs.
In an introduction, Wommack said that he and his wife Jamie have lived in Teller County for 30 years, first in Woodland Park and now Florissant.
Focusing in on his audience, Wommack addressed the religious aspect as well as the business side of the organization.
With annual revenue of $40 million, in the past 11 years the ministry has grown from 30 to 270 employees, and 20,000 partners throughout the United States.
“I am not a business man; I am a preacher,” Wommack said. “There are about 1,800 preachers who drop out of the ministry because they don’t know how to manage finances.”
To fill in the gaps Wommack hired a finance management team to handle the accounting and legal aspects of running a large international organization.
“We’re in the life-changing business,” Wommack said. “Students come in and their life is changed and they go and change the lives of others.”
From September through May, the ministry educates 636 students. “Most of them are not from Colorado; 95 percent are from other parts of the United States,” Wommack said. “They left their jobs, their homes and their families to come to Charis Bible College.”
The median age of the students is 44 but the largest age bracket is 20 to 29. “A couple of years ago we graduated a student who was 89,” he said.
Tuition is $4,000 a year, which includes books and fees and students can earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees within two years, with an option for a third year. Students who graduate after two years are required to go on a foreign mission trip.
Wommack introduced the college’s business instructor, Paul Milligan, who highlighted the statistics that are bound to energize the Woodland Park\Teller County economy:
• 35 percent of employees are expected to reside in Woodland Park while another 10 percent will reside somewhere in Teller County
• 77 percent of the students are expected to reside within Woodland Park and its environs
• 300 students are expected to reside in multi-family units on campus when they are built
• 37 percent of students will work full-time while attending classes and 26 percent will work part-time
• 212 new jobs will be created in 2014 as a result of the ministries’ expanded employment opportunities. “In 2022 it will be 440 employees,” Wommack said. .
• Salaries of all employees average about $4 million a year
• Salaries for employees hired as a result of the bible college’s presence in Woodland Park, over an 11-year total, are estimated to be $71 million
• Revenue from sales and use taxes, over 11 years, is estimated at $1 million while in Teller Count the revenue is pegged at $400,000
• Property tax revenue, for an 11-year total, is $653,000 in the city and $591,000 in Teller County. When revenue for the taxing districts is included, the total will be $2.2 million over an 11-year period.
According to Betty Clark-Wine, the county’s assessor, the organization will not file property taxes until the multi-family units are built; taxes are levied on the improvements to the land, she said. A tax-exempt religious organization, the ministry files 990 tax forms for nonprofits.
Clark-Wine cautions against focusing on the real estate aspect of the ministries. “This is my personal opinion but there’s the multiplier effect. Focus on the people because they have to buy, spend, eat; these people are bringing their money from elsewhere and putting it into the community,” she said. “The value is in the people being generated, not so much in the real estate.”
Along with the statistics, Mulligan talked about the economic diversity that accompanies The Sanctuary. “Religious organizations as an industry tend to be resistant to recessions,” he said. “Andrew Wommack Ministries, during the last recession, increased its revenue every year of the recession. Last year, it was a 25 percent increase.”
Following economic trends, The Sanctuary is expected to host a number of annual conferences and events that will attract more than 2,250 visitors. “Even when we’re not having events there will be a pretty big impact on restaurants and motels,” Milligan said. “I think the college will have a significant impact on the local economy. We will encourage our students to support local businesses.”
In addition to supporting businesses, students are required to contribute 25 hours of community volunteer work for the three terms in the school year.
The ministry expansion is in two phases, the first, the 70,000 square-foot Barn, where the reception was held, a $32 million project paid in cash. Phase II is the auditorium where the tour concluded; the project to be completed when the money is raised.