Vail Daily column: A business brand for the Vail Valley
Vail Valley Economic Development, the economic development initiative of Vail Valley Partnership, sought to develop a strong business brand as part of the Eagle County Economic Development Plan. Our goal? To attract and retain businesses in this unique area of the country, well known for tourism assets and ski mountains, but not recognized as a place to do business.
Significant progress has been made toward building the foundation for the business brand. Vail Valley Economic Development provides professional economic development services throughout Eagle County and provides a single point of contact for economic and business-development related inquiries and responsiveness to area business needs.
Challenges to business
Why build a business brand? Brands convey a uniform quality, credibility and experience. And it’s important to us in the Vail Valley to extend a brand not only to our destination visitors and recreational assets, but also to the value of doing business in our community. And doing business here can be hard.
Business owners and operators across industry segments recognize there are several specific issues in Eagle County that can make it difficult to grow a successful business. The obvious hardships of geography, terrain, weather, altitude, access to and cost of goods and access to affordable and qualified workforce all make conducting business here extremely challenging.
Two other significant challenges to business success were identified in focus groups held with community stakeholders throughout the valley. First is the extreme seasonality of the tourism and visitor economy, driven primarily by winter activities. One of the toughest challenges for many businesses may be trying to balance a 12-month business cycle with the extreme seasonality of the tourism based economy that may bring as much as 70 percent of a company’s annual income in the first two months of the year.
Second, because of these hardships, mountain communities such as ours are typically slow to get emotionally attached to newcomers, waiting as long as three to five years before they feel that a newcomer is truly committed and likely to stay. Many new business owners and professionals have had to build or bring their own support systems to survive long enough to be truly welcomed into the county’s business community.
Business owners and managers must be very adaptive and entrepreneurial to survive and succeed in the extreme business conditions of this special place. We also know that success in Eagle County requires adaptability and entrepreneurship. Staying power comes from access to resources and a deep, personal desire to make a life here in the mountains.
Building a business brand is important in order to help foster business throughout Eagle County to help address the fundamental issues facing the community. Collectively, we need to work together to raise the Vail Valley’s profile as a viable place to build successful businesses and to promote career opportunities and advancement.
A key element of the business brand is identification of the target profile, identified as “mountain entrepreneurs.” These are people who will sacrifice all else to live in these mountains. The prototypical mountain entrepreneur is in it for the long-tail rewards of living in the mountains.
Success in Eagle County is not measured in money — it’s measured in time; time to spend outside, in the mountains, on the trails or on the river. Successful business owners and operators are generally willing to work harder simply to be here. The reward is being able to continue to make a life in the mountains. To do that, business owners need the guidance and support of their community.
The role of Vail Valley Economic Development is to provide that much-needed support.
The overarching goal of the business brand is to share a cross-community brand that respects individual community identities while unifying the business brand message in Eagle County. The findings from our brand work will help ongoing efforts to implement more successful brand messaging, marketing and operational strategies for all the entities engaged in economic development throughout the county.
We’re all in it together and we all benefit when businesses succeed. Our role is to help businesses and as a result improve the overall health of the Eagle County economy. The business brand, targeting the mountain entrepreneur, is now communicated through a comprehensive countywide economic development website at http://www.vail valleymeansbusiness.com.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.