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July 11, 2012
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Vail's sales taxes in record territory

VAIL - Money and effort town officials and developers put into "Vail's New Dawn" over the last decade or so seems to be paying dividends.

Despite the worst snow year in ages, Vail's businesses generated a record amount of sales tax revenue during the 2011-12 ski season - just more than $14.1 million - just topping sales tax collections in 2007-08, the last year of the most recent economic boom.

After a two-year drop at the start of the current national economic slump, Vail's tax collections started coming back in the 2010-11 ski season, then hit the new peak last season.

New businesses contributed quite a bit to that growth. In Vail Village, 94 percent of the revenue growth came from "redeveloped" properties.

What that means is while Vail's revenues are back, more businesses are paying into that account.

But that was the point of the ambitious redevelopment plan Vail created in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Working with developers and entrepreneurs, the town encouraged new development for lodging, retail and dining.

"We were deliberate about growing square footage. ... We wanted more robust and diverse retail and lodging," said Vail Town Council Member Greg Moffet, who was on the council while town officials were planning the new growth.

Getting those projects done was sometimes more a matter of fortunate timing than great planning, Moffet said. Both Solaris and the Four Seasons managed to get finished - or take major steps toward completion - before the international financial collapse of late 2008.

Moffet said another few months of delay for Solaris could have left the town with the 1970s-vintage Crossroads building still standing today.

Luca Bruno owns two clothing stores in Vail Village, one near the corner of Meadow Drive and Vail Road, and another in Solaris. Bruno said the new hotels in town have been "tremendously helpful" for his business.

His two shops did decent, if not record-setting business, and Bruno said his Solaris location benefited from the ice rink and other amenities at the center. With less-than-ideal snow on the mountain, lots of families came to the skating rink, which gave the kids something to do while their parents shopped or enjoyed a drink.

"It was perfect," he said, adding that all the new condo/hotel properties in Vail Village, from One Willow Bridge Road to the Four Seasons, have brought more people to town.

Rayla Kundolf's Masters Gallery is on Meadow Drive. Kundolf said the town and the developers have done a "really good job" expanding the town's lodging and retail base.

"We have the customer service and products," Kundolf said. "They really got it right."

While the town is already seeing benefits from the decade of building, Bruno said he believes that the town's sales tax base can continue to grow - if the national economy continues to recover.

Moffet agreed. While he's long out of the prediction business, Moffet said he believes Vail is in a good position when the nation's economy does turn around.

"From a health standpoint, we seem more healthy than other resorts," Moffet said. "You want to be the robust one when times are tough."

The ultimate payoff from the decade of construction will be when Vail's sales tax pie starts to grow, and new and old businesses start to see their slices grow along with it. That's why Moffet - who's also a member of the Vail Economic Advisory Council - favors more and better marketing.

"We can't sit back and congratulate ourselves, and we can't be thinking we're geniuses" he said. "We need to continue to market the hell out of what we've got."

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Jul 11, 2012 09:38AM Published Jul 11, 2012 09:36AM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.