Some of you may have Zoom watched the recent Sun Valley Economic Development Conference (partnering with Visit Sun Valley): a series of presentations by well-meaning people with some interesting data. We were educated about our lack of affordable housing, lack of affordable office space, Covid effects (highlighted as not too bad overall), need to become a more sustainable community, need to manage growth, need to determine how much growth is possible and need to better integrate newcomers to our valley. Not that we haven’t known about most of these for years, even decades. I kept listening for action steps to support the economy, not recitations of what we already know.

SVED and SVS believe our economy depends almost entirely on tourism, but they plan to soften “attraction” campaigns to ones designed to “manage newcomers’ expectations” about coming here. (Check SVS' website). Tourists, unless they’re well-behaved, are no longer the No. 1 priority. Of course, economic development is much broader than managing north-valley tourists, but the conference failed to mention that reality. With one exception, there were no solutions for actual economic (dollar and cents) issues, no action plan for what SVED would accomplish in the next year to strengthen the economy. “Small businesses,” “entrepreneurs,” “Main Street enterprise,” the core of our economy, were never mentioned. Only north-valley economic interests were discussed, as if, from the Gem Streets south, the valley didn’t exist (except for the airport).

The conference's one unconscious saving grace, in my view, was that by softening our appeal to tourists in order to rest and repair our community's heart and soul, we may actually have created the breathing space to realize that preserving our valley's charming atmosphere, our well-being and our quality of life must finally become our primary economic development target.

Jima Rice


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