My name is Bob Buersmeyer. I’m the area market leader for Idaho First Bank in Ketchum, Idaho—a role I thoroughly enjoy for a community I know well and consider “home.”
After 30-plus years of living here, I’ve witnessed countless ebbs and flows to the market, economy, community and climate, so I feel passionate about changes that occur for the positive in our very special area that many people come to because of its rare, unique beauty and incredible lifestyle opportunities. I also pride myself on being aware and sensitive to changes that may affect us adversely. Which is why I’m writing—to provide perspective, logic and support for the air-service local-option tax and how we should reallocate the funds.
To reflect on the history of our area, you may be aware that there was a considerable amount of time previous to 2008 in which the valley was fueled by the real estate construction business and a handful of employers. Unfortunately, a couple of those companies moved their headquarters out of the valley (Smith Sport Optics and Scott) and in 2008 the building/real estate business crashed. Since then, we’ve recovered dramatically with over 60% of the valley GDP coming from tourism, thanks to marketing and flights coming straight in and out of our area from major cities.
We cannot risk making decisions that will cause us to lose this revenue influx, especially during the shoulder seasons. Our region relies on it—even thrives because of it. Prior to doing this, our air service was limited to Delta flying to Salt Lake City only and Horizon/Alaska flying to Seattle. Now we have more of those flights plus direct flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver and Chicago. The other part of the air tax pays for marketing to these specific cities, which is critical as the economy shifts yet again. The support has been very successful in bringing more visitors and tourists to the cities but helps the locals, the part-timers and their families.
With all that said, the success of the air tax gives our community an opportunity to reduce what the LOT for Air needs to 0.50% and use the other 0.50% to support affordable workforce housing. Housing has always been an issue here, but it has now climbed to a point of crisis. Add the introduction of Airbnb, VRBO, etc., and we’ve now reduced the number of properties that can even be rented by the local workers.
The No. 1 complaint by the local businesses is they can’t hire people because the labor market is so tight and because the workers can’t find affordable housing. I can attest to this firsthand. One of our newest team members who started in January commutes from Shoshone just to get to work. That’s a major stressor to have on an employee. Over the past couple years, restaurants and other businesses have reduced hours because they don’t have enough staff—many of them just chose to close. All because of the lack of available housing and the high cost of existing housing. How are we supposed to bring in higher-quality businesses, doctors, nurses and teachers? By utilizing the 0.50% portion of the tax to build affordable housing, by reducing fees and by donating land that the city owns.
This is not a new tax. Everyone has acclimated to it. And the benefit of it far outweighs the risk of economic adversity should we no longer have it. Let’s just utilize it in a far better fashion that benefits the current community, business and regional needs while also supporting the necessary tourism influx.
Please vote “Yes for Housing & Air.”
Bob Buersmeyer lives in Ketchum
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I wonder if Idaho First Bank, like Sun Valley Co and Coldwell Banker, and Aspen Ski Co expect Ketchum residents to subsidize housing for its employees?
HPB, just how many dollars is such subsidy?
The City adopted a 10-year plan to house 1000 people (in a town of 3000) at a total cost of over $300mm.
HPB, please explain the relevance of your comment to this editorial.
Welcome to the discussion.