Updated: Aug. 17, 11:50 a.m. The Aug. 18 meeting of the ESC will be held at the Westin at 1 p.m.
Economic Stimulus Council wants results, not studies
“A lot of people think this is a real estate meeting,” said Mayor Pro Tem Matthew Lehman at last Thursday’s second Economic Stimulus Council (ESC) meeting at the Westin; “it’s not. It’s focused toward business, focused toward the entire community.”
The ESC met for the first time on Aug. 4 in Rafter’s Wine Room to discuss strategies for the economic salvation of Mammoth Lakes. The group was a diverse one, composed of members from the Town Council, Planning and Mobility commissions, as well as developers, contractors, stakeholders, and the media. By the end of the two-hour meeting, the ESC had come up with a first draft of its purpose statement:
“Take leadership and action to help promote economic recovery through the creation of jobs; attraction and retention of new business; and stimulation of economic activity and investment in Mammoth Lakes.”
At the second meeting, local environmental programs specialist, Lisa Isaacs, asked, half joking, whether “action” could be placed in all caps. She wasn’t alone in wanting to put emphasis on action. Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw led both discussions, and defined the group as “action and results oriented, not the source of a long, drawn out study.” Lehman added, “The town is about studied out. We don’t want this to be another case where we end up with a pretty brochure at the end of a couple months, and then it just sits there and no one does anything with it. My hope is that this will be different.”
When it was time for comments from the group, Mobility Commissioner John Vereuck gestured wryly to the large, three ring binders that each attendee had received and said, “I’m hoping not to just have another book on the bookshelf. At this point I’m going to have to build another bookshelf for all these books.”
But the atmosphere in the room at both meetings was energized, even hopeful. The discussion ranged from proposals for special events to marketing and promotion, and from attracting investment to creating business assistance, diversification, and retention.
One thing ESC members were excited about was the Town Council’s recent ruling to eliminate Development Impact Fees (DIF) for small projects. Tim Flynn and Dan O’Connell pointed out, however, that unless the DIF elimination was extended through next year at least, it wouldn’t do much good. A “second summer” fishing event in the fall backed by Mammoth Lakes Tourism Executive Director John Urdi was also noted as a positive during the meeting.
Some of the things ESC members were excited to propose: efforts to reach out with special events and package deals to bicyclists, runners, and soccer clubs; a “shop local” program; a new visitor’s booth in town, not just in the “well hidden” Visitors Center; a conference center; hospitality training for town employees; detailed quarterly economic reports; and a new site for an events venue.
These and more ideas flew thick and fast, but it was the concepts of growing events and creating an events facility that really stuck. These “hot spots” as well as the other suggestions will be discussed by two ESC subgroups Thursday, Aug. 18 from 1-3 p.m., location TBD.
The ESC isn’t looking to the Town Council for monetary support, but is hoping to use the considerable “horsepower” of the group members, as Wardlaw put it; their “influence, experience, and knowledge,” to form cooperative partnerships. “It’s time to work together rather than throwing our elbows around,” Wardlaw said.