The board of the nonprofit organization Sun Valley Economic Development has approved an action plan for 2015 that emphasizes investment in the local economy, business initiatives related to the area’s Olympic and Paralympic training site status, and developing tourism around a planned Sun Valley Culinary Institute.

    Sun Valley Economic Development, formerly SustainBlaine, is a public-private partnership focused on countywide economic issues. The organization works directly with the Idaho Department of Commerce and other state agencies.

    The organization is funded with about $150,000 on an annual basis by a multi-year, renewable Idaho Department of Commerce grant. Additional funds are contributed by Blaine County, its municipalities and by more than 30 of the leading businesses in the valley.

    Executive Director Harry Griffith said the 2015 plan will expand on previous organization goals established at its 2013 SVED Economic Summit when keynote speaker Michael Shuman, author of “Local Dollars, Local Sense,” drew attention to the importance of local investing.

    Shuman pointed out that while most investment dollars flow to Wall Street and to major high-tech regions, local investment can contribute far more to the local economy.

    Griffith said his organization conducted an informal study of high-net-worth individuals in Blaine County to find out how much investment potential exists.

    “We looked at 1,000 people with significant values in real estate and found that their collective net worth could be $25 billion,” Griffith said.

    Griffith said the group will continue activities geared toward pairing potential investors with local entrepreneurs in 2015, including a “pitch night” where business ideas are pitched to a room of investors.

    Griffith said the group’s Business Advisory and Mentoring (BAM) program led recently to funding possibilities for WinUru, a software social-media development company, and Retrolux, which develops software to support energy efficiency in lighting retrofits.

    “Both are either based in Ketchum or have principles based in Ketchum,” Griffith said.

    The BAM program has a confidential list of 40 accredited investors, he said.

    The organization also has plans to foster business initiatives that capitalize on the Sun Valley Olympic and Paralympic Training Site designation.

    “We are in the process of dialogue and discussion with potential partners and collaborators, including the Wood River Community YMCA, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation and Woodward Action Sports [a winter sports training facility company],” Griffith said. “Woodward could support local athletic programs, the YMCA and most importantly it would make money. It would bring more tourists here.”

    Griffith recently returned from the Ski Industries of America trade show in Denver, where he handed out brochures on the Sun Valley area and approached industry leaders in an attempt to recruit them to moving their operations to Blaine County. Griffith said he touted to them a Tax Reimbursement Incentive (TRI) plan offered through the Idaho Department of Commerce, similar to one he recently wrote to provide incentive for the Aspen Skiing Co. to build a 100-room hotel on Main Street in Ketchum.

    “The TRI from the Idaho Department of Commerce is helpful. More people are now willing to listen,” Griffith said.

    The organization also plans to continue pursuing tourism expansion around the idea of a culinary institute. Recent plans to work with the College of Southern Idaho on this facility came to a halt when a deal to locate it at an old post office space in Ketchum fell apart.

    “We are trying to revitalize this now by looking at it as a food enthusiast’s program primarily, rather than an academic program,” said Griffith. “We think this would make its marketing potential greater.”

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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