Friday, February 26, 2010

No more business as usual

Every city in Blaine County and the county itself needs to redirect a major portion of its staff time to restoring the local economy. Instead of planning for growth, they need to face up to decline.

Too much planning and discussion by local officials today is still focused on growth or growth-related matters instead of on shoring up the local economy.

Hailey, for example, is looking backward at the high growth rates of the last 20 years. Its planning office insists that it could face "unsustainable" growth rates.

The stance is puzzling given that the Great Crash of 2008 flipped the real estate speculation and down-valley migration that had stoked Hailey's population growth for 35 years on their heads. Census estimates haven't caught up with reality and will be suspect until new counts under way are finished.

Hailey is not alone in continuing to do business as usual. Sun Valley and Blaine County are mostly focused on road building, transportation systems and a dark sky ordinance and not on repairing the tattered tourist economy that is the foundation of all business in the area.

This must change.

Elected officials need to bring the power of the cities and the county to bear on local economic recovery. Instead of spending their time drafting new twists on growth management, they should retool, re-staff, develop economic expertise and find ways to spur job creation.

Too much is at stake to leave it solely to poorly funded and largely volunteer business groups like local chambers of commerce or the recently formed Sun Valley Economic Development Corp. For as the local economy goes, so will go local government.

What intervention might look like is anyone's guess. It could start with a really strong marketing program for the first time in decades and a countywide office of economic development where staff could focus on the problem every single day in the same way local governments focus on planning and zoning.

The Great Crash of 2008 was like a traumatic brain injury. Its damage was deep and long lasting. Yet a major obstacle to recovery is that the Sun Valley area looks unchanged.

Commercial buildings are still standing, though many are posted with "For Lease" signs. No one died, but many checking accounts are on life support.

The sun comes up every morning and Baldy's gondola and chairlifts begin to roll. Kids go to school. Skiers ski. Boarders ride. Second homes still emanate a hollow, genteel beauty.

The first step in fixing the damage is to really see it.

 Local Weather 
Search archives:

Copyright © 2024 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

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.