Romer: Strong businesses help build a strong community |

Romer: Strong businesses help build a strong community

No strong community ever had a weak economy. And no strong community ever had weak businesses. The strength of our community is directly connected to the strength of our businesses, and the economic sustainability of our region is equally — but not more — important than our social and environmental sustainability.

We’re fortunate to have a strong economy, and we’re fortunate to have strong businesses. This combination helps ensure our community remains strong. In today’s hyperpolarized national political environment, we need to bridge our differences locally in order to recognize the need and balance among social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

There are three types of people: saints (those who agree with our views), sinners (those who disagree with our views) and salvageables (those who have not yet picked a side). From a business (or political) standpoint, saints can be described as loyal customers (or partisans); sinners are our competitors (or members of the other party); and salvageables are potential customers (or swing voters).

One commonality among saints, sinners, and salvageables is that most everyone has good intent — regardless of political beliefs or positions on local issues, we share the desire to have a successful and thriving community.

How do we build on this common goal of community success while knowing that success does not just miraculously happen? How do we strengthen our community in order to help businesses grow and communities thrive?

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Restoring and developing trust — at a national political level, and especially at a local level — is essential in order to solve long-term problems. A good starting point is to provide a structure where businesses can function in order to ensure community sustainability.

Three broad issues that any type (saints, sinners, salvageables) of person can likely embrace are livability, workforce, and jobs. Transportation and infrastructure issues are one way to build a big tent and broaden a coalition to support the community and support economic growth. After all, there is no Republican bridge and there is no Democratic road.

We have a unique opportunity to build trust locally that might not ever exist at a national or even state level. People trust people, and the credibility and connection available with local leaders will always be more than our access to national and state officials. Local leaders can more easily relate to local goals and how to understand and act upon local priorities.

We are at a point in time where our leaders must have the courage to challenge our assumptions, take an optimistic stance on the future, and explore the unanswered questions to help align our economic, social, and environmental challenges. This alignment will create opportunities, inspire actions, and exceed expectations.

Our path forward in building trust amongst saints, sinners, and salvageables must be intentional. It won’t happen by accident. Our community brand is defined by the stories we share and stereotypes and perceptions determine the stories that develop.

Our competitive identity — not only as a tourism destination, but as a place to live, work, raise a family, and play — is our brand. Our brand includes the traditional marketing pillars of product, place, promotion, and price. Each of these is built on a foundation of delivering on the customer experience. Our visitors are not our only customers; our locals and our business community are equally important to developing a broad platform to ensure livability, workforce, and jobs.

Strong communities require strong businesses, and a focus on broad issues of improving livability and supporting our workforce. We must choose to embrace change together or to brace for the impact individually.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership. Learn more at

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