Many people are quick to equate affordable housing to the economic sectors of government—emergency services, local service, retail and tourism—and they’re not wrong. But there’s an additional financial sector equally at stake here—the professional sector.
I worked at Smith Optics for over seven years and watched the Ketchum City Council spend its time bickering over a local wolf proclamation around 2014 while the company publicly explored relocation, ultimately taking over 70 well-paid jobs and tax revenue with it. The only common denominator of Smith, ESS and Scott USA’s respective exits was the recruitment in a community with very limited affordable housing.
Said affordable housing is absolutely paramount to the success of our burgeoning professional sector, with several one-time startup brands having blossomed into sturdy, reliable contributors to our economy. But we cannot keep growing if we can’t convince entry-level employees to relocate due to overly prohibitive housing costs.
Decked, Club Ride, Wild Rye, First Lite and others bring attributes that are unusual to the valley: the opportunity of niche, professional career paths, job security unrelated to the local economy and scalability not always found in other sectors. Recruitment also brings spouses who work in education, EMS, health care and other important areas. Our brands and people are paying taxes, eating at restaurants, supporting retail, contributing to nonprofits and utilizing service industries, all the while providing employment to hundreds of citizens. These companies bring a stability and opportunity that has historically weathered recession, local downturns, the tumultuous nature of tourism and, most recently, the pandemic.
The valley and its citizens would do well to remember that affordable housing affects all sorts of local businesses and that projects like Bluebird are critical to retaining professional businesses, with all our contributions and proven stability.
Ross Copperman, Chief commercial officer, First Lite/MeatEater Inc., Hailey