Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Spinelli steps up to promote Hailey

Former chamber president chosen as new director

Express Staff Writer

Jim Spinelli Photo by Willy Cook

Positions at the Hailey Chamber of Commerce shift like the pieces on a portable thumb puzzle. The new director, Jim Spinelli, has been a constant presence since arriving in Hailey several years ago to help revamp business at Wood River Insurance, Spinelli's former employer.

"I plan on keeping all of the programs Tom (Smith, the former director) put in place and continue to improve on them," Spinelli said. He explained that during a trip with his wife, Shirley, for their 25th wedding anniversary he decided to make the move to take over the direction of the chamber.

I have been an insurance provider for 27 years," Spinelli said. "We said it's time. The door's there, so let's go do it. I've done everything you can do in insurance on sales and support side."

Spinelli added that he chose to take the director job also because he realized when he turned over the reins of president to Al Stevenson in January he was somewhat reluctant to do so.

"I loved it," he said. "Working for the chamber is something I really enjoy doing."

Spinelli also serves on the Executive Board of Directors for the Blaine County Senior Connection, as a member of the Airport Site Selection Committee, and as co-chairperson of the Wood River Festival of Trees with his wife.

As a member of the chamber's economic development committee during the years he has lived in Hailey, Spinelli said he has been keenly interested in the development of the city.

"We are looking at the economic development of the entire south valley," Spinelli said, sharing his philosophy that Hailey's economic interests are interconnected with the entire county. He said the city needs to take a more regional and visionary approach to promoting the city's economic viability.

"We're not just looking at the building that is in planning and zoning," he said. "We're land locked. Once land is bought we're restricted by the owner's interests. We hope to take a look at what's reasonable and what is going to benefit the person who purchases it. What is it going to bring employees and owners? Will it produce jobs that children can come back to?"

Spinelli said bricks and mortar businesses are struggling with how to keep employees who are looking to purchase homes and start families in the valley. The chamber wants to help support things like affordable housing that can go a long way toward supporting economic sustainability.

"We are trying to raise awareness, share resources, and be more visionary," Spinelli said.

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