Vail Daily column: Finding the right fit
It is no particular secret that one of the difficulties faced by both private and public sector organizations in Eagle County is getting talented people to relocate here — and then keeping them for the long haul.
Yet when I describe our struggles to attract and retain teachers and other key employees with Eagle County Schools to those who don’t make the mountains their home, I’m often met with surprise. “Why wouldn’t someone want to live in that beautiful community?” they ask.
It is certainly true; we do live in an amazing place. No matter how many times I’ve seen Mount of the Holy Cross, or Castle Peak, or the fields along Brush Creek, it just never seems to get old!
Everyone living here knows that life in the valley comes with some trade-offs. Professionals who relocate and stay in Eagle County fit a sort of “profile” when it comes to their lifestyle and values.
The people who commit to making the valley their home generally appreciate and take advantage of the many outdoors opportunities our community has to offer. More than just our world-class skiing and snowboarding, people who make it for the long run here recreate year-round, doing things like mountain biking, golf, fishing and hiking — to name a few.
But the right “fit” for our community is more than just an adrenaline junkie or outdoors-person. Our community also offers extraordinary cultural experiences. World-class dining, musicians and culturally-rich festivals and events are in abundance in our valley. From our experience as a large-scale employer, the people who “stick” are passionate about many of the things available to them in Eagle County and they get out there and take advantage of them.
Along with being the right fit for our valley’s lifestyle to start, those who truly make Eagle County home understand there are some trade-offs that come with the abundance of beauty and experiences available in our community.
Perhaps the biggest trade-off comes with where people live. Housing is a precious and scarce commodity in our valley, and as a result square, footage is low and prices are high. People who relocate to Eagle County need to understand that the 4,000-square-foot home with a 4-acre yard and a pool (which they might easily afford in a place like Houston or Akron) is out of reach here for most working people.
We make sure people understand this trade-off up front, telling them they have to be willing to trade square feet for square miles — that they might have to live in a condo, but they are literally steps away from nearly unlimited natural beauty on our public lands and that million-dollar views are everywhere around them.
Another trade-off relates to some conveniences. There is no Trader Joe’s or Chipotle in Eagle County, at least not yet. But there are wonderful local restaurants and boutique shops to explore and love. No, we don’t have an REI, but we have a Ptarmigan Sports! There is no Red Robin, but we’ve got a Larkburger! And for most out-of-state travel, you will be heading to the Denver airport to catch a flight; but if you keep your eyes open you might find a great deal where you can fly direct to places like New York, Miami or Los Angeles — all from your hometown Eagle-Vail airport.
All the employers here in Eagle County are pretty much in the same boat when it comes to attracting and keeping professional talent in our valley. We need to find people who are the right fit when it comes to living here and who want to take advantage of the abundance of lifestyle choices available. We also need people to come here with eyes wide open, knowing there are some trade-offs they will be making for the privilege of living in Eagle County.
But as those of us who choose to make our home in Eagle County already know, there is no place on earth we’d rather be.
Jason E. Glass is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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