Wednesday, December 29, 2010

SV Development Corp. sets goals for 2011

Outdoor festivals dropped, director hired

Express Staff Writer

Less than five months after approving its first set of goals, the Sun Valley Economic Development Corp. has defined its plan of attack for economic development in 2011.

The corporation was created in January to implement an economic development strategy for Blaine County created by Texas-based consulting firm TIP Strategies. Its volunteer members are public officials, business owners and developers.

The 2011 action plan calls for a continuation of the corporation's efforts to gain certification as an Olympic training site, supporting the efforts of the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance to increase tourism in the north valley and to continue its survey of local business owners.

Corporation spokesman Evan Lawler said its members are confident that Sun Valley will receive certification as an Olympic and Paralympic Nordic training site.

"Nothing's certain, but we've got the amenities here and the necessary infrastructure," Lawler said.

Many Olympic athletes already train here, and Lawler said the many coaches and Nordic trails available locally would increase the valley's chances of getting certified.

The corporation has been working extensively with the Wood River Ability Program, an organization dedicated to working with disabled athletes, and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation on the three-year business plan the application requires.

Lawler said the certification affects economic development because it would put Sun Valley on the map.

"When you have that recognition, you get publicity," he said.

He said certification could also bring in more people, including coaches, athletes and their families—people who could support the valley year-round.

"It's not just a winter endeavor," he said.

One major difference between the corporation's 2011 and 2010 action plans is that the new plan significantly downscales the corporation's role in increasing tourism in the valley.

The 2010 plan called for the creation of two outdoor recreation festivals designed to "promote the region as a recreation destination." According to the plan, budgets and detailed plans were meant to be completed in time for the festivals to be launched in the spring and fall of 2011.

But the festivals do not make an appearance in the latest plan, mostly because the corporation is leaving the tourism efforts to other organizations.

Lawler said the plans have been dropped to avoid competition with the alliance's plans for Ketchum and Sun Valley, even though the 2010 plan proposes the festivals as a way to increase tourism without competing with Ketchum or Sun Valley's efforts to market themselves. He said the alliance's relatively new status was not a consideration.

"We don't want to duplicate anyone's efforts if the efforts are in line with the TIP strategy," Lawler said.

That strategy was a plan for the valley's economic development developed by Texas-based consulting firm TIP Strategies, which laid out objectives for the county.

The corporation has been basing its work off of this strategy, but Lawler said the new alliance is already fulfilling the strategy's objective to establish the Sun Valley brand and market it.

"Once that brand is established, the whole county can leverage it," he said.

The business retention survey is already in progress, Lawler said, citing it as one of the corporation's accomplishments of 2010. The purpose of the survey is to interview local business owners and discover what might be done to help support businesses in the valley.

According to the 2011 plan, 25 businesses have already been interviewed, with the goal of completing 30 to 50 surveys by the year's end. The goal for 2011 is to complete 150 surveys, and compile and apply the information by 2012.

This information will be used to determine what the corporation calls "economic blockers," or factors that are keeping businesses from moving to Blaine County or expanding.

"If there's something we can assist with in the process, we can work with municipalities to improve it," Lawler said. He said the corporation also hired an executive director to direct its efforts. Though he declined to release the new director's name, Lawler said the person would begin after the first of the year.

The full-time position, the corporation's first paid employee, is funded half by a $27,500 grant from the Idaho Department of Commerce and half by private donations. The grant can be extended through 2013.

Several of the corporation's goals for 2010 were put on hold due to lack of resources, which would be alleviated by a new director, Lawler said.

Katherine Wutz:

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