Vail Valley Partnership CEO: SmartBusiness Eagle County survey gives glimpse of area business health (column) | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Partnership CEO: SmartBusiness Eagle County survey gives glimpse of area business health (column)

Chris Romer
Vail Valley Partnership

SmartBusiness Eagle County is a coordinated network of communication and action. This is a formal program that effectively listens to local business needs and systematically identifies needs across industry and geography. This is a key facet of our efforts to increase the number of jobs with livable wages and to promote business expansion and retention.

Our region is blessed to be home to many high-quality resources that support businesses and entrepreneurs. But, it's a complicated world, and it's rare that business owners and entrepreneurs are familiar with all the resources available to them to support and grow their business ventures. Knowledge is power, and missing access to an available resource can mean the difference between success and failure.

SmartBusiness Eagle County changes this by creating a single point of contact for all business needs. We have built a coordinated network of resource partners that will quickly route entrepreneurs and businesses to valuable information, available programs, experience, and expertise to help their business succeed.

We have conducted one-on-one visits with businesses throughout the valley, with a focus thus far on primary job creators outside the traditional tourism and hospitality sector. Businesses surveyed to date have been in "non-tourism" sector jobs including: technology/software, engineering, craft breweries/distilleries/other consumables, sporting clothing and gear, medical, dispensaries, local and regional supports.

During these interviews we confidentially discuss the business operations, requirements and plans for the future. We add this to our valley-wide database to identify trends and follow up to review information and connect business owners and operators with the appropriate resources and individuals within the region and state.

Preliminary results include:

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• Overall, about one-third of the total business is done outside of Eagle County.

• About 25 percent of products are emerging, 40 percent are growing 25 percent are maturing and 10 percent are not sure or declining.

• About 40 percent have introduced new products in the past five years.

• Less than 10 percent of the companies do business outside of the US.

• About 50 percent of the companies are in stable markets, 35 percent increasing and 15 percent are in decreasing markets.

• About 70 percent of companies have had stable management (past 18 months, or anticipated in the near future).

• Lifestyle is both a benefit as well as a challenge for most companies with a recognized need to attract the right type of employee.

• About 50 percent are looking to expand.

• Almost all companies report workforce issues mostly related to the availability of quality workers. Once employees are on board, there tends to be stability and good productivity. About half of the companies have vacant positions.

• Employees finding housing is a significant challenge for almost every company.

• Utility services that are most often increasing for companies include internet speed and access and cellular service. These are also the areas that many companies rate relatively low in terms of satisfaction — especially cellular service.

• Quality of life/community are generally rated high, but there are mixed reviews for child care services, airline passenger services, federal and state highways, tax assessments, and schools.

• Businesses are generally optimistic about their own health.

The results show that across industry sectors, and across municipal boundaries, we need to continue a systematic approach to solving community issues. To no real surprise, the common themes of housing, broadband, and workforce continue to percolate. A systematic, programmatic approach to these challenges will help our businesses to expand and thrive in Eagle County.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com.