Romer: We’re better when we work together
Continuous learning forms a necessary part in acquiring critical thinking skills and discovering how to approach business operations in new and innovative ways. Sometimes – like in the past year — innovation is forced upon us due to factors outside our control.
It is important to reflect back on what we learned and how we can apply new learning as we plan ahead for a sure-to-be-busy summer season and the return of regular business operations across the county. One key lesson learned? The 5 Star business certification program was a resounding success.
Originally started in Mesa County, the 5 Star business certification was quickly adopted by communities and counties around the state. In Eagle County, the program allowed qualified businesses to operate at a less-restrictive level on the COVID-19 Dial. The heart of the program was to be responsive to the economic needs of the Eagle County community, while also protecting the health of patrons and employees through enhanced COVID-19 mitigation protocols.
The Eagle County 5 Star Certification program’s goals were to encourage businesses to voluntarily implement safety strategies above and beyond what is already required by public health orders and guidelines, and with the additional safety measures, businesses were eligible for less restrictive capacity caps, accelerating their reopening.
Like many other silver linings of the pandemic, working with our businesses through their certification process has forged stronger relationships with them, as well as the municipal partners who also stepped up to conduct inspections. This level of public-private partnership can (and dare I say, will) be duplicated in the future for other initiatives. It was wonderful to see the collaboration, responsiveness, and teamwork across many entities in order to move things forward and get things done in a meaningful way.
The 5 Star program was a resounding success for those who participated; consider that multiple larger on-mountain lodges that were able to operate at an increased capacity for skiers and snowboarders who relied on the facility for dining or a quick warm-up. This benefited our visitors through a better guest experience.
The program also benefited our local community in addition to our guest-facing businesses. Consider that a local hotel that was able to host a high school prom at an increased capacity because the venue was 5-Star certified. Eagle County staff felt more confident in approving the school’s event application after going through the certification process as well.
All certified businesses across industry sector were given the assurance that they would be allowed the provisions of the less restrictive level, so they could plan their operations accordingly. This allowed businesses to operate at one level lower on the state dial and increased guest confidence.
The program had one unintentional benefit as well, with both the public and private side recognizing that collaboration and working together results in better outcomes. That’s not to say that our private businesses and our municipal/county partners did not recognize the need for collaboration; Eagle County has long showed leadership in this area. But it is important to be reminded that we’re better when we work together, and that is a key lesson learned from the 5 Star effort.
It is human nature to want to look forward rather than to reflect and learn from the past. As we move forward and continue our rebound from COVID-related business impacts, the 5 Star program provides a model for future public-private collaboration, and that’s a positive for everyone.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at www.vailvalleypartnership.com.