Vail Daily column: Community collaboration makes anything possible
July 30, 2015
Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce representing business interests from Vail Pass to Glenwood Canyon, is invested in helping to build a business-friendly Eagle County. This has long been tied to our mission, and it is spotlighted as the first goal in the Eagle County Economic Development Plan.
Challenges to our long-term economic sustainability include a reliance on a single sector driving a majority of primary dollars into the local economy, highly seasonal business and employment cycles, environmental hazards such as a lack of snowfall or wildfire danger, and a reliance on "service sector" jobs that may not be sufficient to support the cost of living. Anyone doing business in Eagle County knows these challenges all too well.
Taking Charge of Our Future
While tourism will likely always anchor our economy, these challenges show how important it is to take charge of our long-term economic future by actively building communities that support diverse business sectors, attract new businesses and encourage entrepreneurship. Vail Valley Partnership is actively leading efforts — along with numerous public and private partners – to address these challenges.
A key first (basic, but not easy) step is to focus on building a business-friendly Eagle County and recognize the importance of the interdependence of our communities throughout the valley.
We explored the topic of building a business-friendly environment at the recent Vail Valley Business Forum with keynote speakers Harry Frampton, of East West Partners, Frank Gray, of Castle Rock Economic Development, Eagle County Commissioner Jill Ryan and George Ruther, of the town of Vail's Community Development. Specifically, the speakers talked about the importance of being business friendly and the need to support the business community.
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How exactly do we "build a business-friendly Eagle County"?
Key issues including workforce housing, support for the Eagle County Regional Airport and regional broadband access were themes shared by the speakers. These are big issues — things that no single entity, public nor private, can effectively address on their own to meet the needs of our community.
The reality is that our economic dependence on tourism creates many opportunities, but also creates risks and challenges that make a proactive approach to economic development crucial to the long-term health and durability of our economy.
The Business Forum reinforced that communities that are intentional in supporting their business communities have better economic and social results than those that don't. Building a business-friendly climate is a team sport that requires effective communication and alignment across many entities, both public and private. The goal, a theme shared by all the speakers, is to create a consistent regulatory environment for businesses and a positive track record of customer service that signals to the business community that our community is a place where things can get done, a place where success is encouraged and a place where business is supported.
At Vail Valley Partnership, we are showcasing Eagle County as a place to do business like never before. We've built VailValleyMeansBusiness.com, making it easier for new and existing businesses to find support have access to local research, and take advantage of several resources, all in an effort to be a community information repository. We're providing a single point of contact for comprehensive economic, workforce, infrastructure and related data to support informed decision making by both the public and private sectors. We're connecting businesses to nearly all other resources in the Vail Valley quickly and easily.
My biggest takeaway from the Business Forum was that community collaboration makes anything possible, and we are fortunate to have the foundational pieces in place to address the big issues facing our community (workforce housing, air service, broadband access and more). Addressing these issues will require a shared definition of success and a continued focus on customer service, creating an environment best outlined by Frank Gray when he stated, "your understanding and my understanding is the same understanding".
This shared vision of success, where businesses and regulatory agencies work together for mutual benefit of the community, and where governments and special districts work in partnership with community partners to better our business environment, creates an environment where businesses can succeed. Quality of life starts with a good job, and building a business-friendly Eagle County is an important step in that direction.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.
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