Palm Beach, FL. - The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County (BDB) honored Mark Bellissimo, founding partner and largest investor in Wellington Equestrian Partners (WEP), which owns and operates the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC), with its "Economic Development Leadership Award" during the festivities in the Venetian Ballroom at The Breakers during the BDB's 29th Annual Gala on September 17, 2011.
Accompanied by his wife Katherine and daughter Paige, Mr. Bellissimo was honored with a video presentation of the tremendous change his vision has brought the Village of Wellington and the county of Palm Beach over the last four years.
•WEP spent over $200 million acquiring over 500 acres of property and assets including the PBIEC Showgrounds, surrounding properties, and show licenses.
•WEP invested over $25 million in capital improvements over the last four years and will spend close to $5 million on capital improvements this year alone for the launch of a new Global Dressage Festival that will bring hundreds of new families and equestrian fans to Wellington.
•WEP's business grew over 73% since 2008 in one of the toughest economic environments in history.
•WEP continues to target other equestrian events that will bring even more positive economic impact to the County.
•WEP's showcase event, The Winter Equestrian Festival, is now the largest and longest-running horse show in the world by a factor of three. It attracts over 5,000 horses and 2,800 riders from 49 states and 30 countries who compete for over $6 million in prize money. It is the richest prize money in the world-wide equestrian sport.
•The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center will host the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
•PBIEC's "Saturday Night Light" events entertain on average 7,000 spectators.
•WEP's "Great Charity Challenge" raised over $1.5 million over the last two years with 100% of the money raised distributed to Palm Beach County charities. Its 2012 goal is to raise $1.5 million in a single year by engaging the broader Palm Beach County business community.
Mark Bellissimo's endeavors' direct and indirect effect on the local economy cannot be overstated. His vision is to transform Wellington into the premiere equestrian lifestyle destination in the world while making the sport more accessible to everyone with an interest - regardless of financial resources - whether they are riders, horse owners, professionals or spectators. WEP intends to create a low-cost inter-scholastic public school riding program in Wellington within the next three years.
Participants and spectators in the events at PBIEC and The Winter Equestrian Festival spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually in Palm Beach County. The annual economic impact of just the tourist-related expenditures during the Winter Equestrian Festival alone is over $120 million, according to a recent economic impact study from the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, and there is at least another $100 million in equestrian-related expenditures. The value of equestrian properties (housing, farms and raw land), purchased over the last half-dozen years is well in excess of a billion dollars.
"Without Mark Bellissimo's vision, passion, and absolute inability to accept anything less than success, Wellington and Palm Beach County would not have boasting rights to the number-one equestrian destination in the world, right here in our own back yards," said Kelly Smallridge, President and CEO of the Business Development Board - and Wellington resident. "The Business Development Board recognizes Mr. Bellissimo as a major leader in economic development in our county, and we were thrilled to recognize his contributions while we celebrated our 29th year as the county's economic development resource."
For more information about what's happening in our equestrian destination, visit www.equestriansport.com