Vail Daily column: Economic development framework and objectives
September 27, 2013
The Economic Development Leadership Council is a volunteer committee organized in 2013 by Vail Valley Partnership. This group serves as a private industry voice on economic development priorities in Eagle County. It has spent considerable hours of volunteer time providing input, which helped form the basis of many of the recommendations included in the 2014 Eagle County Economic Development Plan.
Throughout the first half of 2013, the council reviewed the current state of the economy, both past local economic development efforts and regional and state economic development activities currently under way, to provide context to its deliberations. The council determined that two broad targets must be pursued to achieve long-term economic vitality in Eagle County: effective retention and expansion of current businesses, and recruitment of new businesses into the county.
The council then formed two working groups to develop strategies to achieve these ends and recommend performance measures for each. Context was given to the concept of "local economic growth" by defining it in the following terms:
• Strong, sustainable growth of individual incomes and sales tax revenues.
• Healthy population growth.
• Increased business longevity.
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• Diversification of industry for year-round availability.
• Job opportunities with promotional potential.
• Viable business opportunities for entrepreneurs.
The group defined "success" in this realm as creating a place that cultivates entrepreneurs, offers "quality of career opportunities" in addition to "quality of life," and creates opportunities that are attractive to all generations.
The council went to great lengths to solicit additional community and business owner input by conducting personal interviews of several companies located in Eagle County and throughout the region. Vail Valley Partnership/Economic Council of Eagle County extends its sincere thanks for the time and effort each member of this group committed to this process!
The public engagement process was designed to give private enterprise a voice on how Eagle County should best structure local economic development efforts to support economic vitality. The result of this six-month process is an economic development strategic plan for Eagle County, which can be found at vailvalleypartnership.com.
As noted in last week's column, historical efforts in Eagle County were geared toward keeping up with growth and infrastructure demands. The economic realities of 2008 and beyond mean that we must focus on proactive economic development, targeting two primary goals: Retention and expansion of current businesses, and recruiting new businesses to Eagle County.
The 2014 economic development plan is designed to create new opportunities and jobs within Eagle County by broadening the economic base in existing areas of strength and helping to support developing industries. These efforts 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.
In order to reach our future economic development goals we must pursue targeted and aligned objectives unique to Eagle County. Six core objectives have been developed to position Eagle County's economy for long-term success:
• Build a business-friendly Eagle County.
• Retain, grow and recruit businesses.
• Expand opportunity in our leading sectors (tourism and recreation, health and wellness and creative industries).
• Provide support for a quality workforce (affordable housing, education, transportation and health).
• Create and market an Eagle County business brand.
• Protect our natural environment.
The plan is designed to supplement and support (not replace) municipal level economic development efforts, providing a tie to countywide efforts. Countywide efforts need to be similarly supplemented through active participation at regional and state levels to ensure Eagle County benefits from efforts occurring around us. A commitment to collaboration at the regional and state level increases local opportunities and engagement, helping to reach the goals outlined in this plan, directly benefiting Eagle County stakeholders.
In order to achieve the desired outcomes, this plan will require public sector leadership and participation to initiate, and private sector participation to successfully implement. As this plan was developed with input from the community, we hope you will share your thoughts and feedback with us to improve this plan moving forward.
Stay tuned to this column next week for additional information related to Eagle County's economic development plan.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.