Fixing Vail’s economy |

Fixing Vail’s economy

Cliff Thompson

When Vail Town Councilman Dick Cleveland convenes a meeting Thursday to look for a solution for Vail’s economic malaise, it’s probably going to be the first of many.

After all, there’s smorgasbord of issues facing Vail, which is in an economic decline.

Nowhere is the economic decline more evident than in sales-tax collections, which over the last 10 years have flattened or even declined. This year, in fact, the town has been forced to pare more than $1 million from its former, $34 million budget.

“I have one goal in mind – to assemble a list of the barriers the town is facing,” Cleveland says.

Those barriers, he says, include:

– Increasing in-county and resort competition.

– Retail leases perceived to be too high, leading to many empty storefronts.

– A retail business mix that isn’t conducive to a healthy municipal economy. –A 40-year-old town that needs remodeling.

– A stagnant national economy that has slowed the flow of money through the tourism vein.

The goals of the meetings is to develop an economic master plan for the town that will identify how Vail can reinvigorate its flagging economy.

Survey says …

Vail’s economic issues, for the first time, bumped affordable housing as the top-rated issue in the latest annual community survey conducted by RRC, a Boulder consulting group. The environment was a close second.

Cleveland says he’s going to be cautious in moderating the meetings, as the town is facilitating the meetings as a partner – and not a target for criticism.

In a community with as many different business objectives as Vail, that may prove challenging, he admits.

“This is not a tear-down-Vail session,” he says. “We’ve had enough bitch sessions. We want to keep it positive. We’ll have to temper our differences.”

Getting stakeholders in Vail’s economy to agree and to work together may be a daunting task. The economy and town/business relationships have spawned many stormy Town Council meetings.

“I want to help build consensus between the disparate groups within the community,” Cleveland says. “Everyone is entitled to their say, but no specific group is going to hijack this.”

After identifying what the problems are, the next step will be to identify what needs to be done.

“A responsibility to accelerate’

So why not just let the economy cycle itself?

“I hate to think there’s nothing we can do,” he says. “We have a responsibility to accelerate (the return) of a vital economy.”

In major metropolitan areas, Cleveland says, economic declines have caused slums and forced urban renewal projects.

“If we continue down that road, we’ll end up with more and more empty storefronts here,” he says.

Retail shopping for visitors is one of two pillars of Vail’s economy, he says. And the other, according to the survey, is skiing.

“One thing we lose sight of is the fact that there’s probably 1,000 other resorts that would love to trade places and have our problems,” he says. “They see the town totally differently than those of us who live here.”

The economic meetings occur as the Vail Renaissance, with more than $1 billion in private and public redevelopment proposals, is getting into gear. Those projects include massive redevelopment in Lionshead and Vail Village.

Vail economic meeting

– When – Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m.

– Where – Vail Town Council Chambers

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or

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