Wood River Valley

Many residents of the Wood River Valley cherish the mountain scenery and recreational opportunities, such as trail running and skiing on Bald Mountain, but face higher costs of living than most small communities in Idaho and the West.

For many travelers to the quaint resort towns of the Rocky Mountains, including Ketchum/Sun Valley, it is easy to engender envy of the locals and their seemingly privileged place of residence and laid-back lives. The smiling, tanned waitress at the bustling steak house who just got off the hiking trail. The boot fitter at the ski shop who catches the first chair every powder day.  

    But, those working-class residents who make the resort economy go—the vast numbers in the service industry, public service and skilled trades—will inevitably paint a reality that is vastly more complex. Some carry two, or even three, jobs to make ends meet. Many forgo nights on the town and ski passes to cover steep rent payments. That policeman you saw patrolling the streets—there’s a good chance he’s planning a stay-cation instead of a sun-splashed week in the islands.

    In its eighth annual Economic Summit, the nonprofit organization Sun Valley Economic Development will facilitate discussions about some of the challenges facing Blaine County’s working class—the lack of affordable housing, the high cost of health insurance, the cost-of-living bonuses that don’t come every year. The theme of the event—“Bridging the Gaps in Our Resort Community: Building a Working Economy for Those That Live It”—will feature several speakers who will offer insight on how our community can provide better for those who aren’t retired and aren’t enjoying days off in one of those luxurious second homes.

    The keynote speaker, Lowell Apelbaum, will discuss how Blaine County leaders and residents can use enhanced communication and networking to bridge the disparities in incomes, housing alternatives and access to health care and education. Additional discussions will include “Building a Regional Partnership,” “Our Future: Can the Next Generation Live the Dream?” and “The Nonprofit Role in Building Community Bridges.”

    This year’s summit will take place Monday, Oct. 28, from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. in the Limelight Room of the Sun Valley Inn, at Sun Valley Resort.

    Coffee, breakfast and networking will begin at 8 a.m., followed by a welcome address at 8:30 a.m. That will be followed at 8:45 a.m. by a presentation from Robert Spendlove, the senior vice president, economic and public policy, of Zions Bank, on national trends impacting local economies. The keynote speaker will begin at 9:30 a.m. Other speakers and discussions will follow, concluding with feedback and final remarks from 2:15 to 2:45 p.m.

    Following the summit, Sun Valley Economic Development will compile the ideas generated and report them to the community.

    The event is a fundraiser for Sun Valley Economic Development, a nonprofit-private partnership organization in the valley that brings economic education and advocacy to bear on issues that affect businesses and communities in Blaine County.

    The organization has worked on bringing new businesses and entrepreneurs to the Wood River Valley, as well as advocating for existing businesses and causes that support them, such as the development of workforce housing.

    Registration and payment for the summit can be done online at Sun Valley Economic Development’s website, www.sunvalley-economy.org.

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