Vail’s ambitious journey |

Vail’s ambitious journey

Jim Lamont

Following is an excerpt of a report by Jim Lamont, executive director of the Vail Village Homeowners Association, assessing Vail’s economic and community development. This is part 5. and the last of this series.Breaking Down Barriers to Community Participation: Expansion of political participation will not, with the existing mindset, be done willingly by the indigenous population, or through unilateral intervention of the courts. Overtime, evolving market conditions and alternative governance systems may well negate the need to induce political enfranchisement. Over emphasizing the opening of a road to political participation in the municipal government may be a digression. The town of Vail, upon the recognition of the economic advantages gained, may arrive at a favorable conclusion of their own accord. Energies may better be expended, in facilitating investment, both financial and human resource in cultural projects and entrepreneurial enterprises that support the objectives of an inclusionary cosmopolitan community. For the most part, these investments can occur beyond the intervention of local government. The pace at which the inclusionary community can evolve is dependent upon how rapidly private investors can facilitate economic development projects. Taxation and Fiscal Policy: The local population and property owners have operated under a taxation policy that assumes the guest should pay. Over the years sales tax rates have increased to a point where they have become self-defeating. The local government has at times demonstrated a lack of wisdom in their spending priorities. Vail has one of the highest consumer loyalty (return) rates in the recreation industry. Its return consumers are savvy and value-conscious; they have learned tax avoidance. Transferring the tax burden to property owners, as has been proposed, will in all likelihood result in having even worse unintended consequences. Serious consideration should be given to reducing sales tax rates, potentially reducing the aversion to payment, resulting in a net increase in revenues. The drop in tax revenues, in large measure, was the motivating force behind the town’s turn to redevelopment as the most direct method to enhance its revenues. Without change in the local governments’ tax and spending policies, the urbanization cycle will be repeated until at some point increasing urbanization will have detrimental effects, becoming an irreversible drag on revenues. Spending priorities for tax revenues should be to sustain and improve the area that generated them so that they will generate even greater return. Marketing the “New” Vail: The current institutional arrangement of business and marketing associations must be restructured so that competitive energies are released from inefficiencies that exist because of polarizing political influences, political patronage, and excessive governmental interference. Support services provided by these institutions must be revamped to integrate with the customer service requirements of the business plans and marketing objectives of redevelopment projects as they come on line. These entities must be at the forefront of inducing the transfer of those attractions, technologies, and practices that emulate the most progressive aspects of European resort culture and service. Trade missions should be created that actively seek the development of new markets in the Americas and Europe. Extending the Helping Hand of Volunteerism: Volunteerism must be harnessed to transfer the knowledge of businesspersons and property owners who have experience in the national and global arena to improve the multicultural business practices and skills of the local community. Volunteerism can play, as it does today, an important role in building an inclusionary community. It can expand second-home owner and guest participation in programs that enhance the community’s cultural tourism efforts and bridge the socio-economic gap through self-help and educational advancement for the working population. Volunteerism efforts must be expanded and intensified in order to instill confidence that an inclusionary resort community is economically viable and socially responsible, both to its people and environment. Summary: Resort communities such as Vail, which are tied to the global economy, may well learn from the success of small national governments like Ireland that have successfully preempted stagnation in their economies. Ireland lifted debilitating restrictions on its economic growth by reducing tax rates, reaffirming its commitment to its people through the preservation of cultural identity, formed developmental alliances with multi-national investors, expanded its internal and external political participation, introduced rigorous accountability over public fiscal policies, and aggressively sought new markets. The resulting economic prosperity is permeating all levels of its society and causing social harmony (tolerance) to flourish among its competing socio-economic groups.Vail has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to guide a massive infusion of private capital to shape a bright future for all her citizens and guests. We no longer have the luxury of resting on our laurels. We must earn back the support of the consumer. In a world of accelerating competition, economic success is built upon removing the barriers to increasing productivity. Once removed, this opens a door to change that allows the community to attract, serve and hold the loyalty of a new generation of consumers. Increasing productivity will yield the capital necessary to improve the quality of life for the community’s citizens and guests. Rather than sitting back and waiting for the consumer to come to us, we must venture aggressively out onto the world stage attracting investors to build our vision and expand our markets. We must deliver our message throughout Europe and the Western Hemisphere that Vail is being reborn as an extraordinary cultural phenomenon that must be experienced. A commitment must be made to our working population that the quality of their lives will prosper, that they have a secure place in the community, as a result of them granting greater political participation to all Vail citizens. We must become more creative, tolerant, and open to diversity and change; educating ourselves to have confidence in the cultured and urbane society of our customers. We must take risks to make ourselves more accessible to more consumers by becoming more affordable, removing tax barriers to their spending, and disciplining government expenditures to provide balanced services and facilities to both the resort and community. We must create institutions, beyond local government, that nurture our sense of community and improves the quality of life for all our citizens. Is this an overly ambitious vision, some would ask? No, comes the reply. We have already embarked on the journey.Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism