Friday, June 18, 2010

Donít scapegoat the chamber?

ďWe have a problem that must be addressed, and time is of the essence.Ē


By JEFF MIHALIC

An editorial in the June 9 issue prompted me to do my own research and review the findings and recommendations of the Sun Valley-Ketchum Regional Marketing Committee. Both reports can be found on the web at sunvalleytoday.com.

While I admire your defense of the chamber, it is clear that Ketchum-Sun Valley does not attract enough visitors and revenues to support our local businesses and to maintain a vibrant, prosperous community. While we all enjoy the relative privacy and serenity of the valley, hopefully we can agree that it is disconcerting to see the many closed businesses and empty condominiums that line our streets. It is especially troubling to learn that our economic downturn is substantially more severe than it is in similar resort communities. In short, we have a problem, and it's a whole lot bigger than ''a little remodeling'' as you suggest in your editorial.

You suggest that the chamber is the best entity to deal with the problem. With all due respect to the chamber, I agree with the recommendation of the committee—that is, to let the chamber focus on serving the visitors already here, and to give a separate entity the responsibility for bringing in more visitors, with that entity having clear goals and metrics, and accountability for performance.

I can understand the chamber's disappointment with the committee's recommendations. In the corporate world, any good businessman fights kicking and screaming when the CEO steps in to take away a piece of his or her responsibilities. It's only human nature. However, that kind of action is taken because: (a) they know they have a big problem, (b) they don't have the luxury of time for two or three failed attempts at fixing it, (c) they need someone to focus solely on that problem and (d) they need new leadership to ensure that change will happen.

Similarly, in our situation, we have a problem that must be addressed, and time is of the essence. If the leaders of Ketchum and Sun Valley ignored the prior warnings of the chamber, let's just call them guilty and move forward. Now we have a committee report that clearly states the problem, sets objectives and recommends specific actions. In a time of crisis, there's nothing like focus and accountability, so I support the forming of a dedicated marketing entity, responsible to a board that has the right to hire and fire based on performance.

In the meantime, despite how each of us might personally feel about the committee's recommendations, we can all help out by increasing our support of local merchants and continuing to support our local charities that help to define the character of our community. And, maybe the most difficult of all, we can welcome the visitors that come here this summer, hopefully clogging our streets and taking all of the parking spaces.

Jeff Mihalic is a resident of Sun Valley.




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