Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Valley needs to get out of its own way

One way or another, everyone in the country who's been paying attention has a hangover today. It's a hangover of multiple causes—too little sleep from watching election returns or too much anxiety from thinking about what's ahead.

But whatever the outcome of yesterday's election, Americans now have to move into the future. We suggest learning how to dig and dig deep.

The Wood River Valley with its bedrock industry of tourism is going to have to dig itself out of something far more dangerous than the residue of a big snowstorm. It's going to have to figure out how to dig out of the national economic fallout.

The threat to the valley is clear. Less disposable income, tighter credit, fluctuating fuel prices and reduced spending nationwide will force heightened competition for vacation dollars.

The resort communities that come through the rough economy will have to be tenacious and creative. Most of all, they will have to be united in the understanding of the business they're in.

That's often a problem for the Wood River Valley where people have repeatedly demonstrated that a lot of us either don't know what business we're in or don't like it. The conflict too often makes strengthening the local economy an arduous process prone to failure.

If the valley is to thrive, working families, employees, retirees, second-home owners and elected officials must join business owners in understanding the area's utter dependence on tourism.

Second, they need to join together in securing the tourism base by ensuring that visitors have a place to stay when they come here. That means the valley—the whole valley, not just residents of Ketchum and Sun Valley—need to get behind construction of new hotels.

New hotels will enable new events and broader marketing. For example, even though the magnificent Sun Valley Pavilion opened last summer, Sun Valley Resort program planners say they cannot book big attractions during summer because the area doesn't have enough rooms to accommodate audiences.

New hotels also could give local tradesmen the business they will need to survive the national building slump.

Third, the valley needs to push for an expedited airport solution. The sooner the valley knows where its airport will be located, the sooner it can deal with its implications.

It's never been easy for businesses to survive in resort communities, but it would be a lot easier if we got out of our own way.

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.