Friday, July 1, 2011

Hailey considers contributions to community organizations

Fly Sun Valley stresses importance of airline carriers

Express Staff Writer

This time of the year, many local nonprofit organizations seek funding from municipalities in the Wood River Valley. The Hailey City Council heard requests from three groups on Monday, but made no decisions about funding them.

Final funding decisions will be made during budget hearings later this summer.

The Fly Sun Valley Alliance came to Hailey for the first time last week, requesting $6,000 to help continue its mission of securing improved air- and ground-service access to the Wood River Valley. The organization gets $35,000 each year from Sun Valley and Ketchum.

Eric Seder, president of the organization, told the council that the alliance was "absolutely one of the most important organizations in the valley."

Carol Waller, the alliance's executive director, touted a new version of the $100 Access Sun Valley card, which provides Alaska Airline ticket discounts and shopping and restaurant discounts at 50 locations in the valley.

She said 120 of the cards have been sold since they were made available in May.

Waller showed the council a graphic comparison of the efforts made by other vacation towns in the region to keep airline seats full, efforts that include paying minimum revenue guarantees to airlines to keep service to their towns.

Waller's statistics showed that the Wood River Valley spends much less than Telluride and Jackson Hole to promote air travel to those destinations. She said a 10 percent drop in airline passengers to Hailey would result in a $40 million drop in economic activity in the valley over the course of one year.

"There are less people coming here [Friedman]—more are going to Boise," said Peter Scheurmier, the owner of an Avis car rental franchise at the airport in Hailey.

Scheurmier said revenue from the city's 3 percent local-option tax will decrease considerably if people choose to fly into Boise instead of Hailey.

"If they fly here and rent a car, that means 3 percent of $400 to $500," he said. "Multiply that by thousands of rentals and it adds up."

Sustain Blaine Executive Director Harry Griffith asked the city for $8,000, the same amount requested of Sun Valley and Ketchum.

Griffith said his organization is working toward drawing attention to the Wood River Valley as a potential site for an Olympic Games training center.

There are 10 other Olympic Games training sites in the U.S.

"We are marketing Quigley Canyon to them," he said.

Griffith said his organization is planning a one-page economic analysis of the city of Hailey, which could be used to educate prospective businesses that may want to move to the city.

"It will help describe what Hailey is," he said.

The Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley requested $16,000 from the city.

Tony Evans:

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