This chart shows the total receipts from liquor, building materials, retail and lodging sales tax in Ketchum from 2013 compared to those from 2014.
Express graphic by Tony Barriatua
Business in the north valley is largely based on tourism, which means the economy is vulnerable to even small changes in local conditions. Last summer’s Beaver Creek Fire devastated business in the month of August, some business owners say to this day. While the local-option-tax receipts aren’t in yet for August 2014, the returns generated in summer 2014 have already surpassed the previous year.
In addition to the 6 percent Idaho sales tax, the cities of Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey charge additional taxes on certain items, which vary by city and include lodging sales, liquor by the drink and other retail sales, including building materials. The monthly LOT tax receipts are a measure of changes in sales between this summer and last. The new 1 percent LOT tax to support air service took effect in January 2014, so cannot be compared to previous years.
Retail and lodging have seen increases this summer, while sales of building supplies and liquor by the drink have gone down. Nonetheless, a 1.48 percent increase across the board distinguishes 2014 from 2013 revenues.
Increases in May, June and July reflect multiple economic and environmental factors that changed between 2013 and 2014. Much of the country is in a slow but steady uptick following the Great Recession, and increased expenditures in the Wood River Valley mirror the national trend of people “widening their pocketbooks,” as Sun Valley Resort spokesman Jack Sibbach said.
“We need more youth. We need higher-level educational offerings.”
A weekly occupancy report compiled by the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance shows the numbers nearly doubled for Sun Valley and Ketchum in occupancy between this week in 2014 versus 2013. The Beaver Creek Fire wasn’t contained until the end of the month, and much of the north valley was evacuated. One retail business owner in Ketchum said she feels like she has post-traumatic stress from the fire, and business has “never picked up or kept pace with previous years.” Coupled with a lackluster winter for snow, environmental factors in 2013 were a blight to Ketchum and Sun Valley tourism.
Another factor in the overall higher summer results could be the increased efforts by local marketing and travel groups to bring visitors to the valley. The Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, or Visit Sun Valley, had a much larger budget this year for advertising and marketing. Its budget was cut in the previous fiscal year by about $100,000 and, without money provided by the newly formed Air Service Board for summer marketing, the Marketing Alliance would have had no summer campaign, according to organization President Arlene Schieven. A new direct flight from San Francisco that began this winter on United Airlines was credited by Fly Sun Valley Alliance with increasing travel through Friedman Memorial Airport. In addition, a new route from Denver started in July.
Olin Glenne, owner of Sturtevants outdoor sports store in Ketchum, said increased enplanements and flight destinations have contributed to better 2014 numbers for his business. However, he said Ketchum should create an independent local economy so that environmental factors like a bad snow year aren’t the driving factor for good or bad returns. Building up the College of Southern Idaho satellite campus and bringing a culinary institute to Ketchum, Glenne said, would foster economic independence from the vagaries of a tourism economy and increase the young adult population.
“We need more youth,” Glenne said. “We need higher-level educational offerings.”
As a board member of Visit Sun Valley, Glenne said the Marketing Alliance’s expansion into regional markets was a plus for commerce and puts Sun Valley on a par with other ski destinations in terms of reaching out to other locales.
“They’re doing a lot of good things with not very much money,” Glenne said.
May through July LOT
Additional 1 percent tax: $225,881
Additional 1 percent tax: $9,070
Additional 1 percent tax: $3,011
Additional 1 percent tax: $17,077
Additional 1 percent tax: $57,014