Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Will Hailey be the next Wood River Valley tourist destination?


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Hailey Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Spinelli is working to put Hailey on the Tourist destination map

Hailey Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Spinelli has big plans for the city of Hailey. His work in recent months with the South Valley Merchants Association and the Hailey Arts Commission are geared toward developing the south valley as a year-round tourist destination.

Spinelli works alone from a tiny office at the Community Campus in Hailey, but it doesn't matter to him how small his office is. He is hardly ever there. Spinelli spends his days criss-crossing town, networking with merchants and business owners who share his vision.

"I'd like to see the city model itself as an event organizer," he said. "We could develop events like the Sun Valley Wellness festival in the north valley, get them profitable, and then turn them over to a non-profit to manage."

The Hailey Chamber of Commerce budget nearly doubled this year from $60,000 to $130,000 based on a contract for services and paid for by local option tax funds. Spinelli plans to utilize these funds to stimulate the local economy.

"There are very few hobby businesses in Hailey. Most people here work from check to mouth. We need to promote them, open up new markets and get them more exposure."

Spinelli funded and took part in a 60-second Plum TV advertising spot which is running three times a day locally and getting looks on its web site at seven other resort towns in the Plum network, including Martha's Vineyard, Aspen and Telluride.

"I'd like to put Hailey on the national map," he said.

He would also like to bring the cities of Bellevue and Carey into the fold of what he hopes will be a county-wide promotion, drawing national and regional tourists.

Spinelli presented a proposal to city council last week that could bring his office another $20,000 to fund a full-time assistant to help him fulfill his vision. While city officials mull over his request, he is busy looking for a Main Street location for the Chamber office. The new location will put him in the midst of the thriving business community he serves. The HCC offers monthly "Business After Hours" get-togethers, an interactive web-site, and community-wide events like the annual "Spring Fest" art show at Roberta McKercher Park, which took place this Memorial Day weekend for the 20th year in a row.

This year the Chamber had a new objective to target vendors from Pocatello, Idaho Falls, and Twin Falls for Spring Fest.

"It worked," said Spinelli. "Despite the lousy weather this year, we had 50 percent of our vendors come from those areas."

The South Valley Merchants Association established the End of the School carnival for the third year this June, raising $1600 to fund the Hailey Hometown Hoopla Christmas celebration, which Spinelli said is in line for Chamber funds to replace and upgrade holiday lighting in the city.

"The SVMA is well on its way to becoming a committee of the Hailey Chamber of Commerce," said Spinelli, who also sits on the board of directors of the Hailey Arts Commission.

There will be 10 art sculptures on the streets of Hailey this summer, thanks to the HAC and the Chamber. Spinelli said the process of mounting the outdoor exhibition was expedited by knocking on the doors of businesses rather than going through the lengthy permitting process at City Hall.

Spinelli said a portion of Hailey Chamber of Commerce funds went this month to promoting weekend getaway packages aimed at "rubber tire tourists" in the Magic and Treasure Valleys and Boise. These packages were initiated by The Company of Fool's, Liberty Theater on Main Street.

"These packages are aimed at attracting visitors who would like to enjoy the theater, but also would like to stay and hike, hunt and fish. We need to support our local hotels, especially during the slack months," he said.

Spinelli also networks with the Sun Valley Ketchum Chamber of Commerce, partnering in The Trailing of the Sheep Labor Day celebration. He also works with the Fly Sun Valley Alliance, promoting Hailey's proximity to the country's oldest destination ski resort. But he believes Hailey also can provide an excellent winter destination of its own.

"There is snow-shoeing, snow-mobiling and Nordic ski trails in Quigley Canyon, "he said.

He is working to organize a regional, competitive cheerleading meet at the Wood River Middle School this winter. The Fairfield-based Soldier Mountain All-stars performed this spring at Albertson's Market in Hailey before the squad held a recruiting exhibition in Sun Valley.

"In early December they will bring 300 to 400 kids to the regional meet," said Spinelli. "This is perfect for us. They are a non-profit; they are a national organization. Ketchum and Sun Valley may have to help us with the overflow. It doesn't matter whether the money comes to the north or south valley, as long as it stays in the valley."




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