Friday, October 19, 2007

Economic growth key to Ketchum?s success

Candidate Jay Emmer sees problems with the status quo

Express Staff Writer

Second in a series of profiles on candidates for Ketchum City Council.

Jay Emmer

Age: 41

Experience: 16 years in management, seven years ownership of Ketchum Dry Goods.

Why running: "I'm running because I love and care about Ketchum as a community. I'm tired of trying to help from the outside. I hope to take a more proactive role on the inside and be more effective."


For Jay Emmer, the health and growth of Ketchum's economy are paramount to the resort city's future.

Emmer has owned Ketchum Dry Goods, a downtown clothing store, since 1997 and has lived in Ketchum for 13 years. He worked in management in various industries prior to acquiring the store, and he said his solid understanding of local business and management practices gives him a unique foundation from which to go to work as a city councilman.

"I moved here for a reason," he said. "I live here for a reason. Those reasons are rapidly disappearing. But I'm also dependent on what I do for my livelihood, and that is rapidly fading.

"We've got businesses bailing right and left. We've got people bailing right and left. We've got a downward spiral that not only needs to be arrested. It needs to be reversed."

Emmer said his experience in business management gives him a penchant for forward, creative thinking.

"That's one of my talents," he said. "Taking something and improving on it and making it better. It's one of the reasons I've excelled in management."

And in Ketchum, he said, change is needed.

"It's not hard to figure out that our pulse is fading," he said.

Emmer said he believes the City Council's responsibility is to make ordinances and policy that work with its own vision, and it has not done so. He said policies implemented do not mesh with the city's own comprehensive plan.

"People get caught up in the minutia of what's going on, but the City Council's responsible for maybe a world-view perspective, the world being the city of Ketchum."

He said Ketchum has become a seasonal residential resort rather than a tourist destination.

"We don't need long-term real estate availability, but if we had a greater capacity for short-term occupancy that would make a big difference. The bottom line is this is not a resort community. It hasn't been for about 10 years."

The city's work on things like the Fourth Street Heritage Corridor and community Wi-Fi, while commendable projects, are feats Emmer believes are more akin to fixing small leaks.

"We have big holes in the umbrella," he said. "We've got to get those patched up before we fix the pin-hole leaks. Loss of business, loss of energy, loss of vitality,—our codes have created a situation where we're experiencing all of these."

He pointed out that even if the ground were broken tomorrow on a hotel project it would be two to three years until the community even began to feel the benefits.

Meanwhile, the city's middle class is rapidly disappearing.

In a platform statement, Emmer says his central theme is that "it is past time for a change." He writes that it is imperative to overcome the challenges to community, commerce and development.

"Ketchum's previous and current administrations have not performed well in the face of these challenges," he writes. "As a result, instead of being led into the future, Ketchum has to actively manage ongoing and increasing crisis where its community, commerce and development are concerned."

Specific to several prominent issues, Emmer said hotel applications should be given priority at City Hall, and the city should actively work to recruit established, branded hoteliers. He said the city should work to develop more for-rent and for-sale deed restricted affordable housing, as well as work to develop a town center and parking, including underground parking at the town center.

Emmer believes the Ketchum urban renewal agency should be comprised of five members other than the City Council. He also sees problems with the city's community development corporation, a non-profit entity designed to advocate for city issues. It needs more accountability and its structure and function needs to be evaluated.

If elected, Emmer promised to approach every issue with the following standards:

· The goal of producing results that will provide benefit to community, commerce and development, with an effective and efficient use of resources.

· A partnership ideology, recognizing that in a properly structured relationship the success of Ketchum can go hand-in-hand with a developer's success.

· An open and creative mind.

· The perspective of a 13-year, full-time resident who owns a 32-year-old local business.

Emmer said he likes to view a healthy community as one having three solid pillars in business, community and the physical environment.

"We have three very weak columns on which this community resides," he said. "If any of them collapses we're in trouble.

"It is past time for a change: a change of attitude, a change in the use of foresight and creative thinking, and a change in the application and follow through of our plans for Ketchum."

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