Friday, September 19, 2008

Hailey chamber gets a new home

Executive director brings new events, increased revenues

Express Staff Writer

Jim Spinelli, executive director of the Hailey Chamber of Commerce, stands in front of the organizationís new Main Street location. Spinelliís event-promotion activities are credited with raising revenues during difficult economic times. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Hailey Chamber of Commerce has a new home on Main Street.

Executive Director Jim Spinelli will soon move into the new digs from a tiny office space at the Community Campus in Hailey. His move reflects the chamber's expanding role in bringing economic development to Hailey.

"We've tripled the number of chamber events from last year," said Spinelli, who will be hiring a full-time assistant/events coordinator to work at the new office, housed in a historic Forest Service building at 309 S. Main St.

Spinelli plans to move in Nov. 1.

"I will be focusing on recruiting new chamber members from Hailey and Bellevue," Spinelli said. "My assistant will focus on current and existing city events that are intended to attract visitors. The events will also provide opportunities for locals to spend money in town, now that everyone is traveling less due to rising fuel prices."

The Hailey chamber was founded in 1950 and has 21 board members, consisting of Hailey business owners. The chamber also has a team of more than 100 volunteers who have pitched in to organize the annual Fourth of July Parade and Memorial Day Springfest for many years.

Spinelli said this year's expanded Fourth of July celebration—including the first annual Hailey Criterium bike race, restaurant food court on Main Street, Kids' Carnival and other events—brought far more people to town than in past years.

"We always knew we'd get 4,000 to 5,000 people in town. This year we kept them in town by keeping Main Street closed and pedestrian-friendly for five hours, so people could eat, drink and shop. Several business owners, and Mayor Rick Davis, said we had the biggest Fourth of July ever."

This year the chamber took over the Hailey Halloween Hoopla Celebration, now in its third year. The Hoopla was established three years ago by the South Valley Merchants Association, which is still involved in the event. It will take place on Halloween evening, Oct. 31, with a kids' costume contest at the Liberty Theatre and a business-decorating contest.

The chamber is also working this year to help bring Santa Claus to town during the Hailey Hometown Holidays event on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This event includes a parade down Main Street ending at McKercher Park for a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, followed by a gathering at the Inn at Ellsworth Estate for bonfires, refreshments and live music.

The chamber's focus on event production is bringing more visitors to the city, and keeping them longer. The result is showing up in an expected increase in local-option tax revenues, which are collected from rental car and hotel fees, the sale of alcoholic beverages and restaurant sales.

In its September newsletter, the city reports that it has collected $277,000 in LOT receipts from October 2007 through July 2008, the first 10 months of the 2008 fiscal year. The city reports that it expects to take in an additional $100,000 in the final two months of the fiscal year, bringing the year's total to about $377,000. If that estimate is reached, the final tally would eclipse fiscal 2007 LOT revenue of just over $368,000.

This year, the chamber will also host the Soldier Mountain All Stars Cheerleading Club team-cheerleading regional competition at the Wood River Middle School on Saturday, Dec. 13. Four-hundred cheerleaders and their families will spend the weekend in Hailey, providing a boost for merchants and other businesses.

On Tuesday Spinelli finalized a contract, along with the Blaine County Senior Connection, to host the Ms. Idaho Senior Pageant on Saturday, May 2, 2009. The pageant is part of a statewide senior pageant. The winner will go to Atlantic City, N.J., to represent Idaho at the national competition.

"These new events at usually slow times of year (winter, fall and spring) should bring in more LOT funds to the city," said City Administrator Heather Dawson.

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