shows county’s strengths, pitfalls
you take away one third of your income, would that be significant? If
you lost one third of your employees, would that be significant?"
Runyan Associates project manager.
Express Staff Writer
economic health is firmly tied to tourism, and its diverse marketplace
is a strong, though imperiled, economic asset.
An economic study
released last week confirms the county’s tourism dependency, and its
status as a maverick, expensive, wealthy, and growing. It also sets
Blaine County apart from mountain resort counties in other states for
its varying local economy.
Compared to five
other mountain resort areas, Blaine is the only county that has both a
high proportion of personal income derived from investments and a
predominantly resident workforce.
factors generate demand for goods and services that indirectly create
local jobs," an executive summary of the study reads. "Hence,
Blaine County has a relatively diversified local economy."
economy is, perhaps, Blaine County’s greatest asset, said study
project manager Bill Klein. But it’s also one of Blaine’s most
threatened assets as high rents and housing costs could squeeze the
county’s lifeblood—its work force.
"Economic Analysis, Blaine County, Idaho" was conducted over
the winter for the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce by Dean Runyan
Associates of Portland, Ore. The study cost the chamber $30,000.
The 88-page report
covers issues from population growth, employment distribution and real
estate trends to taxes, city revenues and visitor spending. It boasts
more than 50 informative graphs and charts.
wanted to get more quantifiable data," chamber executive director
Carol Waller said. "I’m really pleased. I really think they did a
The study is
intended to assist community decision makers in monitoring social and
economic trends in the county, and special focus was placed on
quantifying economic impacts created by local tourism. It was released
May 30 when Klein and fellow project manager Leon Aliski explained their
findings at the chamber’s annual Economic Outlook Breakfast at Elkhorn
Though the study
acknowledges that Blaine is more independent on tourism than many resort
areas, "visitor spending is a significant component of the local
One of the most
significant findings of the study, Klein said, is that throughout the
past decade, visitor spending directly generated one fourth of all jobs
in Blaine County, and ¾ when indirect economic benefits are factored in
¾ generated one third of all jobs in Blaine County.
that travel and recreation are a substantial component in the
county," he said. "That presents challenges," such as
providing affordable housing for workers and making available enough
that one third of the market’s reliance on visitors is very notable.
"If you take
away one third of your income, would that be significant?" he
asked. "If you lost one third of your employees, would that be
The total impacts
of visitor spending were 5,990 jobs and $120 million in earnings in
2000. That represents 37 percent of all employment and 29 percent of all
earnings in the county.
Runyan Associates weighed the lodging, eating, drinking and recreation
earnings generated in several resort counties.
Out of six resort
counties, Blaine was fifth for its percentage of tourist-related
earnings at 15.3 percent of total earnings derived from tourist-related
spending. Pitkin County in Colorado (Aspen) held the No. 1 spot at 26.4
percent of total earnings derived from tourist-related expenses.
Another of the
study’s important discoveries is the delicate balance Blaine strikes
between its diverse workforce and the affordability of living here,
biggest challenge" facing Blaine County is retaining a diverse,
county-based workforce while rents and home costs continue to skyrocket,
The study shows
the county’s assessed property value has climbed steadily from about
$1.5 billion in 1990 to about $5 billion in 2000. This represents
increases of about 9 percent annually.
earnings have not kept pace with the real estate prices.
earnings per job in Blaine grew from $18,400 in 1990 to $28,000 in 1999,
about 5 percent per year.
sale price of single-family homes in Sun Valley and Ketchum increased
from 24 times average annual earnings in 1992 to 35 times average annual
earnings in 2000," according to the study.
Bellevue have remained more constant. The average sales price of
single-family homes in the two south-valley communities has risen from
about five times average annual earnings in 1990 to about seven times
average annual earnings in 1999.
Should the gap
between earnings and home costs continue, Blaine’s diverse workforce
and marketplace could be at risk, Klein said.
Among the resort
counties compared—Summit County, Utah (Park City), Teton County, Wyo.
(Jackson), Pitkin County Colo. (Aspen), Routt County Colo. (Steamboat
Springs) and Eagle County Colo. (Vail)—Blaine ties for fourth for
population growth with Routt County at 3.4 percent growth over the past
Blaine ranks last
for employment growth at 3.6 percent, ranks fourth for per-capita income
behind Aspen, Jackson and Park City, and ranks fourth for average single
home sales price behind Aspen, Vail and Jackson.
Blaine comes in
second, behind Jackson, for the amount of personal income derived from
investments, with 36 percent of the county’s income derived from
dividends, interest and rent.