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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of December 3 - 9, 2003


Ketchum businesses measure success

Some say numbers improved
during fall off-season

Express Staff Writer

Is Ketchum experiencing a small-scale business boom?

Apparently so, according to an informal survey of businesses outside the tourist sector. Some businesses had their best months in years in October and November, and many others have seen significant increases since late summer.

Kathleen Hughes, left, owner of Sun Valley Lighting in Ketchum, assists a client, Glenn Janss, in selecting lighting fixtures. Express photo by Willy Cook

"Our goal was to be up 67 percent over last year, and to date we’re up 75 percent," said Kathleen Hughes, owner of Sun Valley Lighting, a Ketchum-based lighting store that opened a little less than two years ago.

Receipts for October were 20 percent over any month in the past three years, said Andy Hawley of Sun Valley-based Hawley Graphics, adding that it looked as though November would end on an even better note.

Hawley said the increased work came from clients in a variety of areas, ranging from political campaigns to publishing to real estate.

"I had more work the first three weeks in November than in 11 of the 12 preceding months," said Jo Murray, principal in Jo Murray Public Relations. "I think people who put off public relations programs because of doubts about the economy are finally realizing that they have to do something."

Murray, who has offices in San Francisco and Ketchum, has gained work from clients both in the Wood River Valley and in the San Francisco Bay Area. "When I opened the Ketchum office a year ago, I thought I would be happy if 25 percent of my business were local simply because this is a smaller market. This fall close to half of my work has been local."


Rental business to expand

Tony Lutz, president of Lutz Rentals in Ketchum, said his company—which rents everything from forklifts and construction equipment to household items—tends to follow national economic patterns closely. A recent upturn in national economic-growth figures has indeed led to a surge in activity in his business, he said.

"October and November were back to where they should be, and December also is looking very good," Lutz said. "We’re optimistic about the future."

Lutz noted that he plans to open a new store in Bellevue in the near future.

Tony Lutz, president of Lutz Rentals in Ketchum, rents a carpet shampooer to Michael Parente. Express photo by Willy Cook

Suzanne Hazlett, financial adviser with BOULDER Financial Alliance, said many small-business owners are gaining confidence. "There has been a noticeable momentum building since the end of summer," she said. "For some time, many people did not want to face opening their statements. Now those who were immobilized seem to be looking for professional advice and are more prepared to regroup and proceed."

Hazlett said she is seeing increased business from both individuals and small businesses. "Many small business owners are considering offering or enhancing employee benefits such as retirement plans, which leads me to believe that employers are increasingly optimistic about the economy."


Attorneys in demand

The Ketchum office of the law firm Hawley Troxell Ennis & Hawley has gained clients in a wide range of areas for the past two to three months, according to attorney Janice E. Lawson.

"We’re getting calls from people interested in estate planning, from people opening businesses and from existing business clients who are expanding," she said. "For example, we have clients ranging from a fruit producer to a coffee house that are opening additional locations."

People who can work wherever they choose, thanks to today’s technology, are opening many of the new businesses, Lawson explained. "Most of them are making a lifestyle choice to come here," she said. "Interestingly, many of our new business clients are women-owned businesses."

Karl Bischoff, vice president of Phinney/Bischoff Design House, with offices in Ketchum, Boise and Seattle, said "revenue has been up more than 10 percent for the past two months and 40 percent since the first of the year."


Chamber also optimistic

The apparent business upturn does not seem limited to the non-tourist sector alone.

Carol Waller, executive director of the Ketchum-Sun Valley Chamber & Visitors Bureau, said she has heard a mix of comments from Ketchum business owners. She said some business owners are reporting limited growth, while others are simply awaiting the prime retail sales months of winter.

"I guess what I’m hearing is people feeling very positive about advance sales (in lodging and travel) for the winter," she said.

Indeed, Sun Valley Resort, the region’s premier tourist attraction, has reported that advance bookings at its lodging facilities are strong for January and February.

Waller noted that forthcoming reports on local option tax receipts for October and November will provide a solid indication of whether certain types of business were enhanced this fall.


Ski retailer eyes winter

Rob Santa, owner of Sturtevants sporting goods store in Ketchum, said Monday that he is confident the winter sales season will be a success. He noted that he believes the implementation of new direct, daily air service between Hailey and Oakland will help boost visitor numbers.

"We believe it is going to be a strong winter season," he said. "We’ve already seen lots of enthusiasm toward skiing in Sun Valley."

State Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said she believes the upturn for many businesses in some ways reflects the national economy.

"It stands to reason that as the economy starts to pick up nationally, business here is improving," Jaquet said. "The tourism industry typically lags behind other sectors, so it makes sense that things are getting better for firms that have clients in other parts of the country or that are not heavily dependent on tourism."

Jaquet added: "Let’s hope it’s an indication that the tourism industry will soon follow."



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.