Should Vail use $9.7M to battle recession?
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” Vail needs a short-term plan to help the town survive the recession, and $9.7 million in available funds could help, a group of prominent Vail citizens is suggesting.
A program similar to “Vail All the Love,” a town-funded marketing push geared toward Front Rangers, needs to be organized and funded for the coming years, said Kent Logan, a retired investment banker, former Town Council member and member of the group Vail Citizens for Action.
Logan wants the town to hire a ski industry expert to come up with a strategy to get Vail through what might be the toughest two years since its founding.
“To sit here and do nothing while the world crumbles beneath our feet is just not acceptable,” he said, warning that unemployment will rise and businesses will start to fail in the area. “The effects of the recession on the Vail economy is going to continue to get worse. The challenge will be keeping people in this valley. We have to face the immediate situation.”
The $9.7 million left over from a failed conference center project could help pay for that, he said.
Logan will pitch his idea to the Vail Town Council at its meeting tonight.
Ski industry expert James Chung, who runs the research company Reach Advisors, was hired by the Vail Local Marketing District last year to help Vail partner with national organizations and bring new programs and attractions to town. Chung could come up with a recession strategy for Vail, Logan said.
“Let’s see if he can come up with a plan to get us through the next two years. Then we can talk about how to fund it,” Logan said.
Some have floated the idea of using $9.7 million from the conference center effort to market Vail. The money was originally collected from a lodging fee and a sales tax approved by voters to build a conference center intended to bring visitors to town year-round and get “heads in beds.” The town went back to voters after it became clear that more money would be needed, and residents did not reapprove the taxes.
The Town Council and other community leaders have said they want the money to be spent on “bricks and mortar,” or at least a permanent attraction. Suggestions have included a wellness program in conjunction with the hospital or renovating Dobson Arena.
Any new use for the money would have to go to voters for approval.
However, Logan argues that using the money toward marketing and recession strategy meets the criterion of “getting heads in beds.”
“The world’s changed,” Logan said. “Besides, we’ve never come to a consensus on a project for the money anyway.”
However, some oppose Logan’s idea for the conference center funds, saying they want the money to go toward a permanent, long-term project.
Antlers General Manager Rob LeVine said that he would rather see the money go toward something that would “significantly and fundamentally add to our economy.”
“I’d like to spend the money to bring people here who are not currently coming,” said LeVine. “Marketing dollars would be to do what we always have done. I’d like to see something more visionary, with a long-term view.”
Vail does need to come up with a short-term plan, but the answer shouldn’t come from the conference center money, said Montaneros Lodge General Manager Keith Odza, chairman of the Vail Valley Partnership Lodging Committee.
“This money needs to be used for something substantial as far as a permanent program or building,” Odza said. “Something needs to be done (for the short-term), but there’s money in the town of Vail reserves for that.”
Marketing in tough times is critical, acknowledged Beth Slifer, a member of the Vail Local Marketing District, and the town will try to find a way to continue funding the Vail All the Love program.
“It has been the most successful promotion we’ve ever done,” Slifer said.
However, she hesitated to say that conference center money should be spent on marketing.
“There’s a lot of bricks and mortar projects we need in the future,” she said. “The marvelous thing is that many people are concentrating their talents and energies on what we can do to help Vail get through this. I think we are doing better already than our competitors, but we need to do more.”
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or email@example.com.