In 1961, President Kennedy laid out his vision to send a man to the moon (and get them home safely) by the end of the decade. The story of JFK’s experience with three janitors at NASA shortly followed. The president asked them what they were doing and the first janitor responded, “cleaning toilets.” The second responded, “feeding my family.” The third stated, “I’m helping send a man to the moon.”
While the story is likely an urban myth, it shows the power of tackling big issues. Who doesn’t want to send a man to the moon?
Regardless of our job titles, we all have the ability (and the responsibility) to take on big issues. Closer to home, I was fortunate to be present at a meeting last fall in unincorporated Eagle-Vail when the Eagle County road and bridge team gave an update on winter snowplowing. The gentlemen giving the update wanted to share the details behind timing, snow storage, and other snow removal issues in advance of the winter season.
Seeing the Big Picture
I’ll never forget this seemingly minor community update. When asked about snowplowing, the snowplow driver stated that he didn’t plow snow — instead, he helps get people to work so our resort economy works.
Wow. Much like the janitor helping to get a man to the moon, our local road and bridge crew help make our economy run. Kudos to the culture at Eagle County road and bridge.
Does this translate to business? No doubt.
While everyone has issues specific to their industry or business, big issues define our challenges in growing our business in rural resort areas. Big issues face our community.
Workforce development is a big issue. Where are our future employees going to come from? How do our local schools prepare students for a lifetime of learning? How does Colorado Mountain College partner with industry to provide a pipeline of employees and meet the needs of students?
Interstate 70 transit and access is a big issue. How do we work with groups such as CDOT and the I-70 Coalition to update guests on travel times? How do we work to reduce closures on Vail Pass and educate guests (and commercial trucks) on chain laws and other safety issue?
Health care is a big issue. How do we work with the state of Colorado to ensure we are part of a larger region and not placed into niche (i.e., higher cost) regions? How do we become more attractive to private insurance agencies such as Kaiser to provide service to our region? How do we establish workplace wellness programs in the community to try to lower premium costs?
Big issues such as workforce, transit and health care require big thinking, continued focus and engagement. Big ideas, by definition, are those that can’t be solved easily or individually.
Individual businesses are (and should be) focused on their business operations and their customers. Businesses are motivated by profit and there isn’t profit to be made on these big community issues. Conversely, top down government driven solutions don’t often work well.
So what’s the solution?
Inclusive and Collaborative
We believe that an inclusive, collaborative model works better than a top down approach. This model leverages the engagement of many smaller stakeholders and businesses and provides an outlet to government support channels, allowing governmental agencies to provide the resources and information needed. It prevents a disorganized approach and ensures a better solution.
Consider the Vail Valley Partnership as your tool to help tackle big issues. The partnership focuses on a collaborative approach to addressing and solving the big issues that face our community. We are structured to focus on these issues and to provide one unified voice on behalf of the entire community.
We leverage local investment from you, our members, to ensure engagement and awareness to solving big issues. Your membership is leveraged into something much larger. As a member of the partnership, you are involved in solving these big issues.
Our public-private community development model ensures local concerns are addressed. It leverages your membership investment with our public partner investment to expand our collective voice and bring awareness to our big issues.
Collectively, we recognize the importance of these big issues. We are actively helping local businesses grow by creating the foundation necessary for an environment that plans for long term growth.
Your membership is a business strategy that allows your business to be engaged with addressing the big issues facing our community. VVP is the local champion for big ideas on a regional level. Much like the janitor who helped put a man on the moon, or the snowplow driver who helps get people to work, your engagement in the partnership helps solve the big issues facing our community.
Your business can continue to plow roads. Or much like Eagle County’s snowplow drivers, your business can help get people to work to make our economy work. I believe in making the economy work — as do our member organizations.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.