Wednesday, October 2, 2013

LOT for air service would benefit all


    Ketchum resident Jason Lynch, in a letter to the editor printed on Sept. 25, asked some reasonable questions. Why is a locally imposed tax the best way to fund MRGs? If business will thrive with improved air service, why won’t the business community step up and prove that this is the case by funding the MRGs for the first three years? Let me explain why the Fly Sun Valley Alliance believes that the LOT increase is the best and fairest way to fund improvements to air service and thereby improve tourism and create jobs.
    Businesses aren’t the only beneficiaries of this program. The entire community benefits because of more jobs, higher wages, robust property values, greater diversity, more cultural and culinary opportunities and greater ease of travel. It might be reasonable to ask the businesses to pay the full freight if they alone benefitted, but as the benefits are shared, it is fair to share the costs.
    Local businesses have already stepped up. They are providing approximately $200,000 per year for MRGs through the purchase of the Corporate Transferable Ski Passes and the Realtors for Air program. Sun Valley Resort has largely funded existing contract costs for our nonstop flights for years. These are real investments that we can build on if we wish to improve our local economy.

The LOT allows us to significantly improve not only air service, but our local economy as well.

    Further, it is simply not possible for local business to contribute funds on the scale necessary for us to compete. A successful program requires a significant measure of predictable funding to move forward with contract negotiations and smartly timed marketing buys. That is why all of our competitor ski resort communities have funding partnerships involving the ski resort, local businesses and the public sector. Nearly all such communities use a mechanism similar to the LOT to fund the public piece. With continuing participation pledged by the Sun Valley Co., the LOT allows us to significantly improve not only air service, but our local economy as well.
    Finally, Idaho state law limits our options. There is no practical avenue available under Idaho law to generate this type of public funding other than through LOT. In 2014, the LOT increment from Sun Valley and Ketchum will generate approximately $2 million per year, which is anticipated to be roughly split between air service contracts and air service marketing. While this is not a particularly large budget for this kind of mission, the LOT is the dependable funding source necessary to anchor this program. And, it can be used to do the marketing for new and existing flights that is absolutely requisite for success. We are lucky to have the option.
    It is time for us, as a community, to recognize that our competitors have evolved a mechanism for securing better access to small resort communities. That mechanism is a financial partnership between the resort and the community, and the community’s portion of that partnership is funded by a dedicated tax. Arguments about the effectiveness or appropriateness of this approach are ignoring what is the reality of our competitive situation.  Please do the right thing for yourself and your community by voting yes to the LOT increase on Nov. 5.
    Eric Seder is the president of the Fly Sun Valley Alliance, a nonprofit organization that works to promote commercial air service to the Wood River Valley.

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