County surges while Vail lags |

County surges while Vail lags

Don Rogers

While Vail proper spins downward in sales tax revenue – down 4.5 percent for the year so far from the previous one, which was down even more from the one before that – Eagle County collections are considerably brighter.

Year to date, the county is ahead of last year’s pace by 6.3 percent.

Thank Wal-Mart and The Home Depot for a healthy chunk of the go-ahead. And Riverwalk. Eventually, the downvalley nexus of Eagle and Gypsum will add to that sucking sound heard in Vail these days. That is, if Vail fails to carry through with that budding renaissance.

Some of it is that prices tend to be less in the mid- and downvalley areas. Some of it is less sales tax sapping shoppers’ wallets, passed on along with the cost of store leases to the customers. Part of it is proximity to local customers Vail used to command. Part of it is a sense that some Vail merchants have perhaps grown distant from their changing customer base. A lot of it is those landlords who don’t feel much need to lower rents for retail space.

So what can the town government do, besides helping expediting the Front Door, Lionshead, Four Seasons, conference center, possibly even a rebuilt Crossroads?

Take advantage of that property valuation that rivals Third World nations. Balance the tax load better between sales tax and property tax. A more stable funding source that takes pressure off the merchants would do much to improve government AND the local economy.

What’s the alternative? Watch the mid- and downvalley steal more and more of Vail’s lunch while the head of the valley dreams of the mass return of destination visitors (who might not quite make up for the loss of locals) and fixates on problems that aren’t real problems, like parking and discounted ski passes for Front Range visitors.

Who wings in

Speaking of out-of-state visitors, where do you suppose most of them come from? It’s pretty scattered, according to Vail Resorts.

No single place in the United States counts for more than 7.2 percent of the local ski resorts’ national visitors. New York leads with that 7.2 percent, followed closely by Chicago’s 7.12 percent. Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Atlanta and, um, Minneapolis each account for less than half of Chicago’s output of ski vacationers.

Texans come here in greater mass in the summer, apparently. Houston (2.1 percent) and Dallas (1.8 percent) each trail the winter leaders and barely lead Philly and Detroit.

Internationally, the Brits dominate with 33.5 percent of the world’s Vail visitors.