Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Economic summit to evaluate valley’s future

Speakers to discuss outlook for county and Sun Valley Co.


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

An autumn sun shines on Bald Mountain, above the city of Ketchum. An economic summit next month will try to assess the future of Sun Valley Resort and business throughout Blaine County. Express file photo

The Wood River Valley will see its first economic summit next month, as the Sustain Blaine economic development group will present a series of findings on the local economy and bring in noted speakers to discuss the larger economic situation.
    The summit will be held Wednesday, Oct. 10, at 11 a.m. at the Sun Valley Resort. Sustain Blaine Executive Director Harry Griffith said the event will provide plenty of time for invited business owners to network, while chunks of time will be dedicated to panel discussions and noted speakers.
    The first speaker will be John Roberts, principal of TIP Strategies, which developed the Go Blaine economic strategy in 2008. Sustain Blaine spokeswoman Joy Kasputys said data from the plan was pre-recession, so Roberts will discuss how the group stuck to the plan through the recession, what has happened since then and how other resorts and seasonal-business areas are doing—and what we can learn from them.
    “He’s really excited about coming back,” Griffith said.
    The keynote speaker will be Joseph Kasputys, Joy Kasputys’ father, a noted economist and founder and chairman of HIS Global Insight. His talk will discuss the outlook for the global and national economies, the upcoming election and how those economies and the vote might impact Blaine County’s economy.
    The last speaker will be Bruce Fery, CEO of Grand American Hotels and Resorts, a company owned by Earl Holding that operates a number of resorts and hotels across the West, including Sun Valley Resort and Snowbasin in Utah.
    Fery is expected to speak on Sun Valley Co.’s investment, marketing and operational priorities for the future, as well as its future ownership and the evolution of the resort industry.
    Two panels will discuss the desirability of starting or relocating a business in Blaine County and the challenges of maintaining significant businesses in Blaine County.
    Kasputys said the first panel will focus on location-neutral companies, or companies that don’t have to be located in Sun Valley but are. Griffith says Sustain Blaine gets roughly two calls a month from companies interested in relocating, but only two companies per year end up being a good fit for the valley—and this panel may help explain why, as well as providing solutions.
    Griffith is set to give two presentations during the summit. One will be a presentation of the “marquee events” in the valley, such as the Boulder Mountain Tour, the Allen and Co. conference and other large events that bring people to the valley.
    Griffith has been collecting data from such events in 2011 and determining the various economic impacts of each—how many people came, how much money they spent, how much business the events brought to local restaurants and other indicators. Griffith said he plans to discuss a model by which organizations can make their events more successful, and how these events can better contribute to the local economy.
    “[The idea is], how can we get more money in?” Griffith said, adding that the presentation won’t say that the economy solely relies on event tourism, but merely that event tourism is one economic engine for the area.

Harry Griffith

    Griffith’s other presentation will be on new city-specific economic data and will examine whether the economy is slowly but surely improving. All of the data in information provided to the Idaho Mountain Express was from 2011, and covered topics from demographic makeups of the cities and county, total county taxable property values, building permit applications and hotel occupancy rates.
    According to the data, weekend hotel occupancy rates were slightly up in Ketchum and Sun Valley for 2011, with 58 percent occupancy over 57 percent in 2009 and 2010. Alpine skier days were also at their highest rates since 2008, a total of 408,000, compared to 400,000 in 2010 and 331,000 in 2009. Skier days numbered 362,000 in 2007 and 411,000 in 2008.
    The number of building permits was also up, 74 permits in 2011 compared to 40 in 2010. However, the numbers of jobs and businesses in the county are slightly down or have leveled out since last year, and the prices of single-family home sales are still down—though the number of sales in the county is at its highest level since before 2007, at 232 transactions last year.
    Griffith said he plans to discuss those numbers and also poll attendees as to how they are feeling about the economy and what they plan on doing in the next year—whether it’s spending less, spending more, hiring more people or laying more people off.
    Registration for the event is available by emailing Kasputys at joykasputys@gmail.com or visiting www.sustainblaine.com.


Kate Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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