Serving as voice of business | VailDaily.com

Serving as voice of business

Chris Romer
Vail Valley Partnership

Advocacy: The act of arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea or policy. In essence, advocacy is actively supporting something important to you.

Businesses in our community need someone to actively support the things important to them, and Vail Valley Partnership is here to play that role. We are uniquely positioned to be a voice for our business community within our region and with our elected legislators, with over 840 members representing more than 80 percent of the local workforce.

As one of Colorado's largest chambers of commerce, we are able to advocate effectively on behalf of Eagle County businesses in a way that few other organizations can.

As business leaders dedicated to the economic vitality of the Vail Valley, the Partnership's board of governors has a goal to advance issues of importance to our local business community. Our strategic priorities provide some of the most visible evidence of our role as the voice for business.

As one of Colorado’s largest chambers of commerce, we are able to advocate effectively on behalf of Eagle County businesses in a way that few other organizations can.

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The Partnership's board of governors has identified the following key priority issues:

Workforce affordable housing

As locals know, Eagle County's cost of living is higher than many other places. Housing is the key element pushing Eagle County's overall cost of living above the U.S. average. The Council for Community and Economic Research produces an annual County Cost of Living Index that serves as a measure of relative cost of living between different locations across the county. You can view the County Cost of Living Index here: http://www.coli.org/CountyLevel Index.asp.

In 2013, the County Cost of Living Index indexed Eagle County's cost of living at 107.8 against a nationwide average of 100. In the County Cost of Living Index, a number above 100 is more expensive than the U.S. average, and a number below 100 is less expensive than the U.S. average. Housing costs in Eagle County, however, are indexed at 123.2, while most other consumer goods and services in the county fall slightly above or below the U.S. average, making housing the primary driver elevating local living expenses.

Affordable housing has long been an issue in Eagle County. The difference today is the demographic data clearly shows an increased need for more affordable housing options for the current and future Eagle County workforce. Addressing our affordable housing issue is essential to the continued success and growth of our business community across industry sectors, and the fall ballot measure is a very good step in the right direction.

Workforce development

Eagle County's population is currently one of Colorado's youngest, but is rapidly aging. While the youth, 18 to 25, and 46 to 60-year-old segments of the population remain constant at 25 percent, 8 percent and 19 percent of the total population, respectively, state demographers are predicting a decline in the "family age" group of 26 to 45-year-olds, from almost 40percent of the total in 2005 to about 24 percent by the year 2035. The older population, 61 and older, grows markedly, forecasted to comprise 22 percent of the total by 2035.

This demographic shift, and an increasing demand for skilled workforce across industry sectors, requires a concerted community approach to workforce development efforts.

The Partnership takes a lead role in a variety of workforce efforts, including serving on the Rural Workforce Consortium board, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments economic development district and serving on Colorado Mountain College's advisory council. We engage and are involved in these efforts because we believe workforce development is important to our business community and future business growth.

Transportation and air service

Interstate 70 is a critical transportation corridor connecting Colorado's Front Range and the Western Slope. It not only moves tourists and residents, but goods and services. Severe congestion in the corridor infuriates travelers, harms local communities and small businesses, impacts our tourism economy, creates safety risks, wastes fuel and hampers interstate commerce.

Increasing air service and visitors coming through Eagle County has a direct economic benefit on every community in Eagle County. Survey data shows over $275 million dollars are spent by visitors coming through the airport — with guests visiting our communities staying longer and having a higher repeat visitation rate than those who arrive through Denver International Airport. Because so much of our local economy, job market and businesses depend on the dollars spent by tourists and second homeowners who come through the Eagle County Regional Airport, the EGE Air Alliance plays a real, significant role that directly impacts Eagle County's residents and communities.

The Vail Valley Partnership focuses on these priority issues as they impact our communities, our businesses and our residents. In both local and state government, we take an active role to advocate for a business-friendly community because we believe that a strong business community leads to a strong community as a whole.

Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, recently named Chamber of the Year by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. Learn more at http://www.VailValleyPartnership.com