Vail Daily column: What to watch for in 2017 | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: What to watch for in 2017

One of the biggest fictions among small business owners might be a job description, but here's an even bigger myth in mountain resort communities: a holiday. Business owners and managers in our tourism economy often don't have time to take time off during the peak holiday season, as visitors are packing our lodging and our villages to enjoy their hard-earned vacations and it is our job to provide the very best service.

To paraphrase and borrow from a professional associate, and in the immortal words of Glenn Frey and his neighbor Jackson Browne: "Don't let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy." Your set of wheels is the drive to deliver, know, anticipate, assist, sell, please, build, articulate and show up. They hum and occasionally thump under you, even when you're standing on a corner in Winslow, or more literally figuring out how to improve your business operations to attract more guests and customers.

I hope 2016 was positive for your business operation; most metrics show that Eagle County's economy continues to plug along and remain positive. Modest gains in lodging occupancy and sales tax collections show opportunity, while low unemployment combined with high labor participation rates put some stress on workforce and staffing.

So, what to watch for in 2017?

I was fortunate enough to be joined by Mick Daly from the Eagle Chamber of Commerce and Sarah Franke from Group 970 restaurants representing the Vail Chamber of Commerce on the Partnership's monthly radio program on KZYR last month. We discussed a variety of themes and topics with a focus on what's ahead for our community in 2017.

While chamber groups such as Vail Valley Partnership, Eagle Chamber of Commerce and Vail Chamber & Business Association are unlikely to have all the answers, these groups do have their ear to the ground and a good idea of what our members are feeling and thinking.

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Common themes

A few themes were consistent throughout the valley, and there are more commonalities than differences amongst these merchant groups. It was agreed that workforce housing will remain a focus area despite the failure of ballot issue 1A, and it was agreed that a county-wide discussion will need to take place to best determine how to address this issue. Directly related to housing, we discussed the need for a renewed focus and conversation around transit and how to best move our workforce throughout the valley and agreed that exploring transit will be an important issue in 2017 and beyond.

Another topic of consensus was the need for the continued need for collaboration ­­— among municipalities, special districts, business organizations, nonprofits and the business community. Collaboration — working together across boundaries to help address issues — has been a consistent theme among the Partnership and our neighboring chamber groups, and our community has made incremental strides over the past few years. Collaboration will continue as we move forward.

Vail Valley Partnership will continue to focus on the following into 2017:

• Contribute to positive economic conditions in Eagle County through continued implementation of the Economic Development Plan — a plan that delivers a network of community business support resources to retain and grow existing businesses — and an outward facing marketing strategy to attract additional business development.

• Increase destination tourism via our group, meeting and special event recruiting efforts, leisure sales efforts, continued collaboration with the EGE Air Alliance to grow flight service to the Eagle County Regional Airport, and continued collaboration with the Colorado Tourism Office to promote the entire valley.

• Build strong relationships between the various segments, both geographic and within key industries, within the business community and key stakeholders.

• Publish and promote various economic information (research) to stakeholders to assist in data driven decision-making and to provide data tools to prospecting and growing businesses and to help support data driven decision-making by public and private stakeholders.

• Provide regional and statewide representation to Eagle County and our business community on issues of importance including housing, transportation, broadband and workforce development.

• Facilitate local business services and economic development activities.

• Provide a robust membership benefits programs to our members in the business community to include leadership programs, educational events, signature programs and community building efforts.

At Vail Valley Partnership, we believe that every business is integral to the success of the valley. With a membership of 850-plus organizations that spans the entire Vail Valley, we are dedicated to ensuring local business success and fostering regional economic vitality. By joining Vail Valley Partnership, you enter into a collection of people who are passionate about growing their business and increasing the strength of our community.

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