Vail Valley Partnership CEO: A peek into 2018 from an economic standpoint (column)
Not a week (day?) goes by that I’m not asked my take on our local economy. It’s a funny question, given that the folks asking typically have their fingers on the proverbial pulse of our community as much as (or more than) I do.
In all fairness, in my role as president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, I do talk to a variety of member businesses on an ongoing basis, and we do work with various entities in both the private and public sectors with regularity. We also track economic indicators, demographic trends and lodging occupancies. So it’s not that strange of a question — even if those asking are equally in the loop.
My answer to the question — “What are you seeing in the economy?” — is that, in many ways, we are facing the tale of two economies, and one consistent theme holds true. To paraphrase the great Charles Dickens, it’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times.
Capitalizing on Opportunities
So, just what does that mean?
My take is that many businesses, especially those in the resort core and those most reliant on tourism, are seeing (close to) “the best of times.” Despite challenges from Mother Nature across the Rocky Mountains, our sales tax revenues continue to be strong and show growth, lodging occupancies remain relatively stable and event attendance for our signature events continues to maintain growth, with a continued focus from Vail, Avon, Beaver Creek and Eagle (among others) to invest in new events to drive tourism growth.
Opportunities to capitalize on this success and to capture repeat visitation are abundant, and communities throughout the valley are working hard to do so. From the Vail Valley Partnership’s destination marketing efforts, we are seeing solid growth in our group sales efforts to impact mid-week and off-peak business.
On the flip side, we have very real challenges facing our community. If we don’t address them, then we might be facing “the worst of times.” Certainly, workforce development, broadband, transit/transportation and housing impact business success and employee-retention efforts. It is a tough time out there, and these macro-level challenges impact our economic growth and the success of businesses across industry sectors.
We’re seeing many small businesses continue to struggle throughout the valley, and feedback from our member businesses show that we still have a long way to go to reach a point where businesses across geographic and market segments are seeing equal successes and feeling fully confident in our economic future.
What does this mean? I don’t have all of the answers (not by a long stretch), but it’s important to continue the discussions and to continue to focus on both enhancing our economy via workforce development efforts such as CareerWise Colorado, regional broadband efforts led by Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, transit and transportation improvements and enhancements and grassroots housing advocacy efforts. These are issues we must address together, in a collaborative manner, while at the same time encouraging our local municipalities and governments to provide the business and regulatory environments needed for businesses to succeed.
With numerous local elections (including county commissioner, state house, state senate and local special districts) approaching in 2018, be sure to push candidates for their positions on economic issues to support our business community. Be sure to ask these candidates for office how they will help our regional economic development efforts moving forward to ensure we don’t see the worst of times.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at.
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