Mountain Town News
By Allen Best
Reading the tea leaves
KETCHUM, Idaho – It’s the season for business conferences as ski town officials huddle to plot their competitive strategies.
In Ketchum and Sun Valley, an economic development group called Sustain Blaine is planning to hear a panel talk about location-neutral companies. Group officials say they get two calls a month from companies interested in relocating their businesses to the Sun Valley area, but only two companies per year end up doing so. What are the barriers to relocation of such businesses?
Also on the agenda in Sun Valley is a talk by Joseph Kasputys, founder of HIS Global Insight, which will probe global and national economies.
In Colorado, something similar is underway in Steamboat Springs. The community already has a more diverse economic base than most. It has 1,000 employees in location-neutral businesses. Among them is SmartWool, the maker of socks for rugged activities, and The Industrial Company, an international construction company, which both began operations in Steamboat and retain corporate headquarters. Outdoor recreation manufacturing employs more than 400.
Tom Kern, director of the local chamber, points out that healthcare has 1,000 full-time employees, energy and mining another 1,000.
“What the economic summit is trying to do is have the community devise a strategic plan regarding its future direction as it relates to economic development. Obviously, tourism will have a large part in that strategy but what are this community’s priorities as it relates to these other industrial clusters that presently reside here?” Kern tells Mountain Town News.
And in Whistler, a high-level brain trust of representatives from the municipal, hotel, ski area and other sectors has been summoned to help spend $6.35 million in provincial money.
While doing so, members of the Economic Partnership Initiative are expected to pool information about the impact of the global financial crisis, changing visitor travel and demographic patterns, exchange rate fluctuations, resort competition, revenue uncertainty, new emerging markets like China, increased global awareness of Whistler in the wake of the 2010 Olympics. and social media and other marketing shifts.
Vail tests health-related tourism
VAIL, Colo. – Vail continues to explore how it can make a better income through what is broadly called medical tourism.
It’s a rubber-band expression that can, depending upon who is speaking, refer to such traditional things as spa treatments and wellness seminars. Also traditional has been the hosting of conferences and seminars to attract medical practioneers.
In the early 1990s, Vail gained another revenue stream when Tahoe-based orthoepeadic surgeon J. Richard Steadman set up business. The clinic continues to draw the rich and famous, including professional athletes, to have their shoulders and knees worked on, but more ordinary people, too. Now, a third of the hospital nights at the adjacent hospital are because of the clinic.
Now, Vail is ramping up efforts to draw visitors for health reasons. One aspect is to draw conferences and other such meetings. The Vail Valley Partnership has added a staff member to specifically recruit medical groups and meetings. Chris Romer, the partnership’s president, reports that this has grown to more than one-fourth of the group business.
Altogether, the hospital and medical groups could account for as much as 6 percent of the towns’ economic base, according to Stan Zemler, the town manager, who spoke recently at a forum covered by the Vail Daily.
Another initiative is to promote seminars and activities appealing to people interested in physical fitness. That’s always been Vail’s forte, but this has a different tact.
Another effort involves special event programming. Last weekend, an event called Living at Your Peak was held in Vail. There were sessions titled, “ Stress and Biological Aging: What’s lifestyle got to do with it?” and “Nutrition Translated.”
Participants had the opportunity to road bike through Vail with Freddie Rodriguez, who promised to tell stories from the Tour de France. Mt. Everest climber Ellen Miller explained how interval training and using heart-rate monitors and zones can be used to best advantage. And professional tennis legend Martina Natrilova gave the keynote.
Jasper wants to test air service
JASPER, Alberta – Elected officials in Jasper have agreed to throw in $8,000 toward a $40,000 study to determine the feasibility for regional air service out of the local airport.
The Fitzhugh, the local newspaper, reported that the study was precipitated by the announcement made by WestJet that it had purchased 40 new jets to use for regional service.
Why wouldn’t WestJet and other airlines study the feasibility themselves? In the airline business, that’s the way it works, explained Maggie Davison, chief executive of the Jasper Tourism. Local communities must be aggressive in attracting service.
Main Street redevelopment
PARK CITY, Utah – Major renovation of two-story building on Park City’s Main Street is about to begin. When finished, the building will have four stories. The Park Record says the building is owned by Ken Abdalla, who has acquired several properties along the commercial street in the last several years.
No more butts in Jackson
JACKSON, Wyo. – The Virginian, the last bar in Jackson Hole to allow smoking indoors, has done a 180. The Jackson Hole News&Guide reports smoking was banned four months ago to enable managers to evaluate the effect on business, and the ban will continue at least several months more. General manger Mike Kraft did acknowledge that the bar’s clientele has changed.