Friday, May 11, 2007

Think before you howl

Before the predictable howling begins about the number, size and location of new hotels in Ketchum, the incipient howlers should consider some sobering facts.

The valley just finished a so-so ski season, with many fewer skier days than usual and mixed economic results. Sun Valley counted 362,317 skier days, the worst in the last five years.

The number of businesses in Ketchum has decreased significantly between the years 2001 and 2006.

According to the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureau, 96 businesses in Ketchum closed and 76 new ones opened—a 21 percent drop. The survey included businesses of all types—retail, restaurants and hotels.

Among the retail businesses, 58 stores closed and 45 new ones opened, a net loss of 13 stores, or 22 percent.

That's not good news for valley residents or visitors. It means that basic services are becoming harder to find, and amenities that visitors expect—restaurants and shopping, for example—are fewer.

Combine that with the fact that the valley is aging fast and the young people who are key to the valley's future vitality are having a tough time—tougher than any workers who arrived here in any decade since the 1970s. It remains to be seen if many can get a toehold that will allow them to remain here in the long term.

These things combined with a shrinking supply of hotel rooms create an unpalatable cocktail.

New hotels would bring new marketing partners, more visitors, new jobs and new vitality to a valley that badly needs them. That should be something to shout—not howl—about.

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