Vail Valley Voices: Green setbacks, and 2015 Alpine Championships
Vail, CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report for August. The Daily publishes weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
The same economic and political rigors apply to government environmental sustainability efforts that would incentivize climate-change-motivated conversions from “depletable” to “renewable” energy sources.
Eagle County’s program to spread the use of solar energy through an installation property tax credit has thus far been nixed by federal mortgage lenders as an undesirable title encumbrance.
The town of Vail’s effort to gain a $26 million federal energy grant to fund a biomass power-generating plant, fueled by beetle-killed pine trees that blight the surrounding forest, was rejected by federal authorities who, instead, favor promoting expanded natural-gas usage.
The decision leaves the Vail region, save for a proposed phased logging and selective reforestation operation, surrounded by an expanding volatile threat from catastrophic wildfire.
Act now to avoid missed opportunities – 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships: There is, to some observers, a sense that Vail does not fully appreciate the scope of opportunity that the 2015 World Championships offer in putting the community back on its economic feet.
There are those in Vail’s fragmented business leadership who have yet to recognize the competitive significance that local organizers have already conferred by headlining the event as the “Beaver Creek-Vail” Championships, giving top billing to Beaver Creek, when for the past 30 years, the branding ascendancy has been reversed.
This decision appears to have been made even though organizers are still seeking to fill a $5 million to $7 million gap in funding from government and businesses in order to host the event. Naming rights becomes a sensitive issue of branding dominance in an international competition for the lucrative high-end destination guest market.
Racing events will be split between the two resorts. There are stirrings in Vail’s political circles that the community should be the location for the opening and closing events, including parties for the media, as it has been in two prior World Championships (1989 and 1999).
The jockeying for position over event logistics and pecking order muddles the larger implication that the event can be a singular unifying force to retool the local tourism economy and supporting infrastructure, which could reap benefits well beyond the event itself.
Vail is well-positioned, with the completion of its extensive renaissance renovation, to use the championships as its worldwide roll-out as a dominant power in the “grand tour” of prestige international winter resort communities.
Even though the event is 41⁄2 years away, those not familiar with the progression of decisions could be caught off guard and unprepared.
Historically, Vail’s business community has complained mightily about the disruption to business that the championships cause while they are under way. Critics note that chronic complaining is no substitute for the lack of cohesive and forward-looking leadership. The benefits become appreciated in the years after the event, when increased traffic from international destinations, such as the United Kingdom after the 1989 championships, becomes apparent.
The persuasive power from exposure by the international media has grown exponentially since the time of the earlier championships.
How Vail chooses to organize the exposure it receives is essential to the long-term economic return it gains. Therein lies the challenge, critics say, organizing competing business interests, a feat that has eluded the community for the past three decades.
In good times, dysfunctional behavior could be tolerated, even ignored. Not so in down times.
Vail’s problem, as these critics observe, is that its business community lacks strong, cohesive leadership with a unifying purpose. Instead, factional cronyism predominates, and local government funding perpetuates the behavior. Meanwhile, economic progress lacks innovation and is grinding repetitively along.
The lead up to the World Championships, some believe, is a perfect time to do more than shuffle the deck chairs. It is an opportunity to restructure leadership by shifting responsibility to the business community.
It is being discussed by those supportive of reform that a corporate entity should be formed representing the principal business segments in the Vail community, which would be responsible for formulating and implementing marketing policies and coordinating investments made in conjunction with the championships.
In the long term, the corporate entity would guide the diverse mosaic of local businesses toward the broader goal of sustaining growth in both domestic and international markets.