Vail to allocate funds for small business grants
Economic efforts will also include a lodging promotion program
The town of Vail is launching a pair of programs to aid local small businesses and the town’s lodging industry.
Vail Town Manager Scott Robson Tuesday presented the programs to the Vail Town Council.
The small business grant program is modeled after a similar program Eagle County launched in 2020. That program provided nearly $1 million to local businesses.
Robson said the program will dedicate up to $500,000 for direct aid to small businesses, with some caveats. The rules state that businesses must hold current town business and sales tax licenses, and must have a physical storefront in the town’s commercial areas. Businesses can’t be publicly traded, and can’t be owned by or controlled by a public corporation. Eligible businesses can’t be a subsidiary of a publicly traded corporation. The rules also limit participants to no more than 50 full time equivalent employees, and must be in compliance with all current public health orders.
Better than rent relief?
Robson said some of the money allocated for the grant program comes from funds originally intended for a 2020 small business rent relief program. Robson said “there’s quite a bit of funding” remaining from that project, noting that businesses in many cases had a better-than-expected year. Robson added that the rent relief, which required cooperation from tenants, landlords and the town, didn’t see as much landlord participation as expected.
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The grant application period runs from Feb. 15 through March 31. Town officials hope the grants can provide some relief in the last weeks of this ski season and into the off-season.
The town also announced a more immediate program to boost local businesses.
Vail Economic Development Director Mia Vlaar said the town’s lodging occupancy is down this season from the 2019-2020 season. Vlaar said that depending on the week, occupancy is down between 10% and 40%. According to data provided to the town from DestiMetrics, a lodging industry analytics firm, more than 15,000 fewer rooms have been booked to date than for the same period in the 2019-2020 season.
Take a ’workcation’
To lure more people to come on weekdays, the town is launching a Front Range-focused marketing campaign called “Take a winter workcation.”
The program, to be funded through the town’s general fund and facilitated by the Vail Chamber & Business Association, is aimed at those who stay from Sunday through Wednesday nights. Those who stay during those weeknights will receive town-issued $25 gift cards, redeemable at local businesses.
Gift card amounts are $25 for a one-night stay, $75 for a two-night stay and $200 for a three-night stay. The program will be restricted to reservations made between Feb. 5 and April 11. A total of 1,000 cards will be distributed.
Councilmember Brian Stockmar said a 2020 gift card program aimed primarily at locals “exceeded my expectations,” adding that the cards provide an incentive to spend more than just the face value of the cards. That, in turn, provides revenue for businesses and sales tax revenue for the town. On average, card holders in the first program spent double the face value of their cards at local businesses.
Vlaar said businesses that participated in the previous gift card program will be asked to participate in the new one. The exception will be liquor stores, which tend to do well in economic downturns. Other retailers and restaurants will be welcome to participate.
Total funding: $500,000.
Grant amounts: $5,000 to $15,000
Application period: Feb. 15 — March 15.
Businesses must be local, with no more than 50 full time equivalent employees.