Friday, November 19, 2010

Finding common ground

Economic-development groups prioritize branding

Express Staff Writer

Find common ground.

That was the message that consultant Tom Hudson reiterated Tuesday to leaders of the Wood River Valley's five groups focused on developing the local economy. He led a meeting among the groups—Ketchum Community Development Corp., Wood River Economic Partnership, Jigsaw, Sun Valley Marketing Alliance and Sustain Blaine/Economic Development Corp.—at the River Run Lodge to promote better communication among not only themselves, but also the Ketchum city government.

No one in the room disputed Hudson's suggestion to synergize and also develop private-public partnerships, something that he has learned from three decades of experience is necessary to make an impact.

Hudson, principal of planning, urban design and sustainable development for Seattle consulting firm CollinsWoerman, began working with Idaho communities in 1981. He was also one of the key creators behind Ketchum's downtown master plan, the Urban Renewal Agency and Ketchum Community Development Corp. The city has brought Hudson back for five months, needing an objective third party to rewrite the economic-development chapter of the city's 10-year-old comprehensive plan and develop an action plan laying out who will do what and how.

He mentioned Twin Falls as an example to follow. The city has a tradition of holding a weekly meeting of 25 key leaders—including the hospital, College of Southern Idaho, chamber of commerce, downtown business district and city government.

"They had so much together," he said, pointing out that Twin Falls was able to attract Dell to relocate an office there in 2002. "But if you're looking for business relocations, you're in for a lot of competition."

Hudson said the country has 13,500 economic-development organizations and 200 corporate relocations a year. He said quality of life is the biggest factor for those in search of a new office location, investigating local schools, housing, availability of financing and more. Improve quality of life and economic vitality will follow, he said.

A step was taken Tuesday to establish the valley's most pressing quality-of-life lackings. Each group presented its goals for the next five years, and then everyone voted on the priorities they considered most needed.

Top-voted priority: Build the Sun Valley brand and spread it to the world. Second place went to elevating service across all businesses to follow through on the experience that the Sun Valley brand promises. Creating a business-friendly environment ranked third.

Trevon Milliard:

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