Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Good air service is key to valley's success

Stress for breakfast, stress for lunch, stress for dinner—that's what America is eating these days.

Unemployment is going up while the stock market is going down. The mortgage mess has the Masters of the Universe cleaning out their desks even after they scrubbed clean the investment accounts of unwitting clients.

Some people are angry and looking for scapegoats. The rest are nervous and looking for lifeboats.

In times like these, people need the stress reduction provided by relaxation, restoration and recreation more than ever. These are the products with which the Sun Valley area bases its living.

But unlike manufacturing operations, resort areas can't deliver stress reduction by rail or mail. Customers have to come to us. That's why continuing strong air service to the area is critical to maintaining the valley's economy.

The Federal Aviation Administration's demand that the area relocate Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey has given a lot of business people heartburn.

On one hand, any local airport needs to be able to accommodate the larger regional jets that are displacing smaller prop jets. The Hailey airport can currently do that only on a limited basis. On the other hand, businesses are concerned that a more distant airport could perversely reduce air service—and the number of visitors who come here.

The FAA promised to address this concern in an environmental impact statement. The findings are in and were unveiled in a meeting last night.

Chances are that many people missed the presentation because it conflicted to some degree with the national presidential debates.

Anyone who missed the air service presentation can make it up today because the same consultants will appear at a public meeting at noon at Ketchum City Hall.

The findings and any decisions based on them are critical to the valley's future. In the current economic climate, it's essential for the area to focus on the basics for success in the recreation industry.

Not only does the area need to provide excellent service and a spectacular vacation experience for those who come seeking the great beauty and spiritual renewal to be found here, it must make getting here as easy as possible.

It's tough enough for stressed-out vacationers to pack up and get going without having to deal with major hiccups and hurdles in transportation.

Sun Valley is a special place, but even special places are going to have to work especially hard to make sure they remain special—and accessible by air.

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