Cash registers ring louder in 2004 | SummitDaily.com
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Cash registers ring louder in 2004

Summit Daily/Reid Williams Constance Jones, Summit County Chamber of Commerce executive director
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SUMMIT COUNTY – Retailers rang more sales in 2004 as the local economy slowly pulled out of the national economic downturn that started in 2000 and was exacerbated by 9/11 and the Iraq war.As America’s appetite for travel and spending recovered, the business outlook that had been dim for at least two years brightened in Summit County.Increased sales tax revenues were happily tallied by local governments, which had slashed budgets and laid off workers during the two years prior to 2004 when revenues started to nose dive.Sales taxes are a major money maker for local governments that remained cautious, even as they started to see monthly increases in January that continued to average about 5 percent per month through the year.Summit County government allowed its departments to request up to 5 percent budget increases for its $55 million 2005 budget that was approved this month.Still a ways to goWhile retailers, restaurateurs and ski area officials had waited for the five-year drought to subside to relieve the downward trend, it turned out to be increased consumer confidence that boosted business as the drought question – are we still in it or is it behind us? – remains unanswered.

The economic recovery gave reason for numbers crunchers across the county to issue a small sigh of relief, but revenues are not reaching record levels set in the late 1990s and 2000.”We still have a long way to go,” said Linda Gregory, county finance director, when pondering sales tax figures in August.Improved consumer confidence, the volatile stock market and low mortgage interest rates were credited for brisk real estate sales through the year. Real estate agents said the high-end $1 million market saw more activity as investors began to put money in real estate and shy away from the stock market. Interest rates that hovered around 6 percent or less boosted sales in the lower-end categories, allowing many locals to become first-time homeowners or prompting owners to move up in size and price category.Resort real estate was reported to be selling at a torrid pace across the region. Summit County’s sales were impressive, totaling $592 million by the end of October – a 33 percent increase over the same period in 2003.The average selling price was also up by $24,000 – an indication that resort real estate would continue to be a good investment in 2005.

Chambers look inwardLocal chambers of commerce experienced some rough times in 2004 as events caused chamber directors to struggle with public relations challenges.In Breckenridge, a half-cent sales tax proposal that would have generated $1.2 million in additional marketing funds met a quick demise as a survey indicated retailers did not support it.It was a perplexing opinion for the town council to swallow when it initially seemed a slam-dunk that business owners would want the town to spend more on marketing. A recognized failure by the chamber to effectively communicate its marketing plan to the community prompted a series of meetings and a marketing task force that was organized late in the year.The chamber began an educational campaign and a new column in the Summit Daily News.More study on marketing is under way with a citizens committee, and a new tax in Breckenridge is likely to be addressed again in 2005.



Funding woes generated public relations challenges for the Summit County Chamber in 2004 when it closed the Frisco Information Center in June and sent the community scrambling to find new options for distributing information to tourists.The Silverthorne location was also in jeopardy, because of scant government and ski company donations that had previously funded the centers. During the brouhaha, the chamber’s part-time executive director resigned to work in his main professional field, and was replaced by Constance Jones, who with the organization’s board was able to work with the business community to keep the Silverthorne location open.The situation impaired the chamber’s relations with local governments but Jones, after only one month on the job, began to repair its partnerships and formed a new one with Copper Mountain Resort to host the county’s first economic summit in November.In Frisco, the Frisco Chamber reorganized and stepped in to run the information center on Main Street, which is funded now by the town and Copper.The partnership between Frisco and Copper presents interesting economic potential for the future as Frisco embraces Copper as its ski area and Copper embraces Frisco as its ski town.Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at kmarquis@summitdaily.com.


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