Last week, we reviewed various regional collaborative efforts to help drive economic development in Eagle County and also provided a universal definition of economic development as increasing cash flow (more economic activity) into our economy.
That said, economic development in Eagle County is, and will remain for the immediate future, heavily dependent on tourism to increase the net money flow in our communities.
Numerous entities deserve recognition for their efforts to lead economic development efforts via tourism. Vail Resorts should be commended for the Epic Discovery program that will absolutely have a positive impact on our summer tourism growth. The Vail Valley Medical Center, the Steadman Clinic, the Steadman Phillipon Research Institute and the town of Vail should be commended for their partnership and expansion of medical services. Private developers throughout the valley, from Vail to Avon to Wolcott to Eagle, have projects in various stages of planning and should be commended for their vision to support our construction trade.
Our various towns and entities throughout the valley deserve recognition for their continued support of special events as these events and programs help us build upon our brands, drive destination visitor traffic and result in repeat visits. The Vail Valley Foundation, Vail Resorts and others all deserve recognition for their positive economic impacts and support of events.
While these various groups and organizations may not realize it, they are positively impacting our regional economic development efforts by increasing cash flow into our economy, resulting in numerous benefits to the business community.
Shifting gears a bit, second homeowners and the impact that they have on our sales tax coffers and in supporting our economy, should not be forgotten when we talk about economic development opportunities. Second homeownership drives our property tax collections, supporting many municipal and special district services that locals benefit from. Not to mention the importance of second homeowners on our sales tax collections and their support for our nonprofit community.
An economic development opportunity that exists related to second homeowners is to position Eagle County and the Vail Valley as a desired location for "location neutral" businesses to relocate. Many location neutral businesses (people who can conduct their business from wherever they choose) will likely start in Eagle County as second homeowners. Being an attractive location for second homeowners benefits our community in both the short and long term.
One seemingly underappreciated asset in Eagle County that increases tourism, supports our second homeowner population, adds to our sense of community and at its core increases the net flow of money in our community is the Eagle County Regional Airport. As airlines continue to consolidate their operations, rural airports (including Eagle County Regional Airport) are faced with increased challenges even to maintain status quo.
Continued growth of the Eagle County Regional Airport should be our No. 1 regional economic development goal. Increased flights and service into Eagle County Regional Airport supports our tourism economy, creates jobs in our community, drives sales tax collections in the western part of the county and makes the Vail Valley a more attractive location for second homeowners and location neutral businesses.
Vail Resorts has long been a leader in ensuring flight service into Eagle County during the winter months. The EGE Air Alliance (a public-private partnership amongst the county, towns and approximately 20 local businesses) helps ensure summer and fall service to the Eagle County Regional Airport. Growing participation and funding of this group, to directly support increased summer/fall service to our airport, is a tangible economic development effort that most any business in our community can justify. Stay tuned for more information on this important nonprofit organization in the coming weeks and months as they work to positively impact our community.
Two weeks ago we asked "What in the world is economic development?" The answer is in the eyes of the beholder. But it's clear that regional collaboration and cooperation amongst the private business sector and our local governments will only assist to help facilitate our continued economic growth in Eagle County. Much is being done, and there is much more to do.
As you know, we have an election coming in a few short weeks. Take the time to ask our candidates for the state House and for our open county commissioner seats about their views on, and if elected how they will support, economic development.
We'll continue to explore economic development in Eagle County in the coming weeks.
What can your business do to help? If you benefit from our collaborative community efforts, get off the sidelines and join the Partnership. If you are already a member, tell your neighbors to join to help us do more here in the valley.