It has been a good year for Eagle County, as most of our economic indicators continue to trend in the right direction. Fortunately, our lodging occupancies look strong for the winter season. A special thanks to Mother Nature for being more cooperative this year, getting us off to a great start and giving the ski seasons positive momentum heading into 2014.
What did the Partnership accomplish in 2013?
We’ve been working to enhance the economic vitality of Eagle County and to ensure we’re mission-focused each step of the way. For those unfamiliar with the Partnership, our mission is to take the leadership role to create and manage collaborative programs that encourage economic development and result in increased destination tourism in Eagle County.
What does that mean to our member businesses and other stakeholders? It means that we’re doing our best to drive destination tourism; to offer business resources including marketing, cost saving strategies; networking and educational programs; and to work regionally with other business groups and economic development stakeholders to help make Eagle County a great place to do business.
The Partnership’s destination marketing efforts, including group sales, event recruiting and leisure sales, will result in a total economic impact of over $69 million in 2013,contributing over $4.1 million in state and local tax revenues. Our focus on tourism efforts as a part of our economic development strategy is essential. Visitor spending in Eagle County equals $869.1 million annually, contributing $54 million in state and local tax revenues. Direct visitor spending benefits hotels, retailers, restaurants, attractions, transportation services and other small businesses, and directly supports jobs for more than 6,800 people in the Vail Valley region.
We’re proud partners in the EGE Air Alliance, striving to increase air service to the Eagle County Regional Airport. This group was successful in helping attract United Airlines to run a nonstop flight from Houston to Eagle last summer — bringing more than 3,000 inbound passengers to the county in the summer months. We know that guests who fly into EGE stay longer, spend more and are more likely to return for future visits — three keys to any successful business (or destination).
The Partnership also embarked on a seven month public engagement process designed to give private enterprise a voice on how Eagle County should best structure local economic development efforts to support economic vitality. The resulting plan is designed to create new jobs within Eagle County by broadening the economic base in existing areas of strength and helping to support developing industries. These efforts, to be implemented beginning in 2014, will help increase sales tax revenues, grow and retain jobs, provide support for businesses to create year-round availability and create business opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Regionally, we’ve been active participants in both the state of Colorado and the Northwest Colorado Council of Government’s economic development efforts. This engagement is important to our community and our small businesses to ensure that our concerns are addressed at a state level — providing the foundation for our efforts locally. Strategically, we’ve focused on the regional efforts related to tourism and outdoor recreation, as well as health and wellness, serving on key industry sector strategic development committees and tactical program implementation efforts.
The Partnership has also increased engagement with local agencies and organizations including the Healthy Communities Coalition, LiveWell, Connect for Health Colorado, Eagle County Non-Profit Coalition, Health & Wellness Initiative and Merchant Alliance.
As we look ahead to 2014, we remain focused on developing programs that meet the needs of our members and that positively impact Eagle County.
Increased engagement with regional economic development agencies including Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments economic development district, Brand Colorado Council, Rural Workforce Consortium, Colorado Workforce Board and Small Business Development Center help provide a connection to our business community. Of equal importance, engaging with these groups helps keep the Eagle County business community at the front of mind for these organizations. We’ll continue to partner with our key local economic drivers including Colorado Mountain College, Vail Valley Foundation, Vail Resorts and our local municipalities.
Last, but certainly not least, the Partnership will continue to promote the entire valley — from Gypsum to Vail — via our website and vacation guide. We’ll focus on bringing value to our members and the business community via our events and marketing tools.
We hope you’ll join us in 2014 to help us maintain our momentum to positively impact the business community and our members. Learn more about the Partnership by visiting www.vailvalleypartnership.com.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.