Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Put air money on the ground

    The new Air Service Board is the best chance the Sun Valley area has had in years to generate new business—if it does its work successfully.
    With a potential $1.5 million in annual funding from newly increased local-option sales taxes in Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey, the ASB should be able to build upon what had been private underwriting of commercial air service to the area.
    The new money comes with enthusiasm from city leaders who recognize that their cities play a critical role in the stability and sustainability of the local economy, which was left battered by the national recession and still hasn’t fully recovered.
    Job No. 1 for the ASB must be to assure the public that the money is well and wisely spent. It should regularly reach out to inform the public about where the money is spent and why. Otherwise, the ASB will find it difficult to maintain public trust and the confidence of residents who voted to approve the new tax.
    Deciding where to spend the money will soon turn into real work, more than some elected leaders may expect. When that happens, and it will, city officials may be tempted to create an entirely new bureaucracy to do the work, complete with new, highly paid administrators.
    The ASB should avoid that temptation by utilizing existing staff within the cities and at Friedman Memorial Airport to get the job done. It should also contract directly with marketing firms instead of hiring third-party intermediaries.
     Otherwise, the ASB will risk needless diversion of money to administrative overhead, money that is desperately needed on the ground to do the job it was intended to do: develop and expand commercial air service to make the local economy more stable and prosperous.

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