Vail Daily column: Health and wellness sector is an economic driver |

Vail Daily column: Health and wellness sector is an economic driver

The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade recently released “Healthy Economy, Healthy Colorado: A Strategic Action Plan for Colorado’s Health and Wellness Industry.”

The report, found online at, states in its executive summary, “Colorado’s health and wellness industry is a powerful economic driver for the state. Business, as they say, is booming.”

The vision outlined in the strategic plan states, “Colorado will establish a thriving health and wellness industry that drives economic growth, improves health outcomes and promotes a stronger, more productive workforce.”

The Office of Economic Development deserves kudos for recognizing that health and wellness is a key economic driver for the state of Colorado.

Locally, our elected officials and other stakeholders deserve equal praise for recognizing the importance of health and wellness to Eagle County’s economy. The importance of health and wellness was first identified in a research project conducted by Reach Advisors on behalf of the Vail Local Marketing District back in 2007 — a year that in many ways was a lifetime ago. While lodging occupancies are likely to exceed 2007-08 levels this winter, much has changed in the national and local economy. One constant from 2007 to 2014 is the importance of health and wellness to our economy.

Health and wellness is a top job sector (behind only tourism and outdoor recreation) in Eagle County. Many of these jobs pay higher than the average wages in Eagle County and this sector has very low unemployment. The demand for skilled workers currently exists and should continue to exist into the future in the health and wellness sector. And it is not just Eagle County; in fact, the central mountain region has the second highest concentration of health and wellness jobs in the state.

The Colorado plan goes on to state that, “Colorado has a unique opportunity to leverage the strength of this sector going forward, becoming the premier national destination for prevention and wellness, high-quality health care services and outdoor recreation. Reaching these goals will provide a strong return on investment in many areas, including improving the health of all Coloradans, creating a more productive workforce and attracting national and global companies. Together, these accomplishments will spell strong and sustainable economic growth.”

We are well underway locally to achieving this. In many ways, Eagle County is providing proof points to the state efforts. This leadership positions Eagle County for future health and wellness opportunities.

A thriving health and wellness industry? Check.

Our health and wellness infrastructure would be the envy of most any other community of our size across the country. We might take it for granted, but our medical community including Vail Valley Medical Center, The Steadman Clinic, Steadman Philippon Research Institute, Shaw Regional Cancer Center, as well as smaller organizations such as Thrive MD, Rocky Mountain Vein Institute and others, give us a huge advantage over other areas of our population size.

Improve health outcomes? In progress.

The Healthy Communities Coalition is a group led by Eagle County Public Health, comprised of professionals, advocates, community members and leaders who are committed to fostering health among Eagle County residents. Currently, coalition initiatives are focused around healthy eating and active living, but may evolve over time. The coalition works toward building a healthier Eagle County by convening key stakeholders and community members, fostering partnerships and collaboration and supporting the development and implementation of initiatives related to improving community health.

Promote a stronger, more productive workforce? In progress.

Health and Wellness Leadership Award

New to the Partnership’s annual Success Awards is the Health and Wellness Leadership Award. This award recognizes an organization or individual that promotes health and wellness both within their organization and externally through community programs and initiatives.

Eight organizations were nominated and the finalists for this award are; Eagle County Government, town of Vail and Sonnenalp Hotel.

We are already a region known for outdoor recreation and the Vail and Beaver Creek brands provide huge recognition both domestically and internationally. Our business community is taking notice of the importance of workplace wellness to a vibrant workforce.

Revisit Colorado’s vision for health and wellness, but now simply substitute Eagle County for Colorado in the vision. “Eagle County has a unique opportunity to leverage the strength of this sector going forward, becoming the premier national destination for prevention and wellness, high quality health care services and outdoor recreation.”

Here in Eagle County, we can credibly lay claim to a health and wellness industry that is a key economic driver and that aligns with statewide efforts. We are well primed in Eagle County to benefit from and be an active participant in the statewide efforts in the health and wellness economy.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.

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