What’s the state of the Vail Valley? | VailDaily.com

What’s the state of the Vail Valley?

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

VAIL ” Harry Lunt believes a setback could set up the valley for a long-term gain.

Lunt, the director of sales and marketing at Cordillera, was among several dozen people at a Thursday lunch and panel discussion on “the state of the Vail Valley” sponsored by the local chapter of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International.

The panel of local business experts included Edwards-based airline consultant Kent Myers, who spoke briefly about the next year’s airport closure, that will keep the facility closed to traffic between April and August. That closure will actually be an opportunity, Myers said, for a couple of reasons.

First, it will allow the nation’s airline business to settle out a bit more, which can help local business get a better idea of just which carriers are best able to provide service to the Eagle County Airport.

Second, Myers said a long-term benefit of the airport closure to allow construction of a runway extension will be non-stop summer flights from the East Coast. Those flights aren’t possible now because the local airport’s summer air is too thin to allow fully-fueled jets to take off from the existing runway. Once those planes ” generally Boeing 757 passenger jets ” can take off with full fuel tanks, they’ll be able to fly from Gypsum to the East Coast.

“That’s going to be a huge step forward,” Lunt said. “Nonstop flights from the East Coast will be a boon to our international marketing.”

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Lunt said Cordillera is following at least some of the advice given by panelist Michael Kurz, president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership: Keep marketing, even in slow times.

“There’s market share out there and you have to go get it,” Kurz said. “But you have to get tougher to hang in there.”

“We’re getting ready to spend right now in some strategic markets,” Lunt said.

While panel members remained cautiously optimistic about the valley’s ability to weather the current national economic slowdown, Don Cohen of the Eagle County Economic Council said business growth is being hampered by the valley’s lack of worker housing.

“It’s the dagger at our throats,” Cohen said of the current housing shortage. “We basically have a zero percent vacancy rate in rentals.”

Making things worse is that so little is being built, Cohen said. The Stratton Flats project in Gypsum has just begun and will eventually provide more than 300 for-sale units, and a small apartment complex is also just getting started in Gypsum.

“But that’s it,” Cohen said. Nothing else is approved and there are only a few projects in the foreseeable future, he said.

“There’s a real worry about where teachers, bus drivers and nurses are going to live,” Cohen said. “It’s a big problem for recruiting businesses to come here.”

What frustrated Lunt and others attending the lunch wasn’t the recognition of the valley’s problems, but the hazy future of any solutions.

“It just seems like the solutions are going to take several years and there’s no clear path to get there,” Lunt said.

“And it seems like we always have the same questions,” said Ryan Iguchi of Vail

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Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or smiller@vaildaily.com.