Friday, September 7, 2007

Steering through red ink

After fires, come floods—of red ink, that is. That's what local businesses are facing in the aftermath of the Castle Rock Fire.

Even as U.S. Forest Service officials figure out how to rehabilitate burned hillsides and canyons, the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley must figure out how to help rehabilitate valley balance sheets.

Ketchum wisely backed off from axing a large portion of its $416,000 contract for marketing and visitor information services with the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau. The City Council voted to fund marketing at just 3 percent less than last year.

Post fire, marketing is more important than ever. It's imperative to get the word out that visitors may safely return to enjoy the fall and winter seasons.

City leaders had toyed with cutting marketing by $100,000 or more in order to fund the fledgling Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit recently formed by the city itself.

The city wants to use the CDC as a financial vehicle to attract grants, private donations and loans that the city otherwise wouldn't be able to receive. With enough funding, the CDC could undertake downtown beautification, like the just completed Fourth Street Project, and creation of workforce housing.

The CDC may become valuable, but to shift money from marketing to the CDC would have been like someone quitting a job in order to decorate the house.

The chamber's annual budget is around $1.4 million. It's a David-sized budget in a world of resort-marketing Goliaths. It's a small oar, but an oar nonetheless that will help steer the valley through the red ink.

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