Frisco begins conversations on maintaining community culture in a post-pandemic world

Frisco officials began conversations with Insights Collective last week to envision the town’s future once the pandemic is over.
Photo Liz Copan / Summit Daily archives

Frisco began big-picture conversations last week to consider the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to start reckoning with how to address the “new realities” of tourism trends to maintain a culture that is friendly to Frisco residents and the council’s vision for the town.

On Jan. 26, a recently formed group called the Insights Collective led Frisco Town Council through a discussion on what economic and social changes the town could expect to see in a post-pandemic environment and what steps should be taken to ensure Frisco is in a good place to adjust its strategic goals accordingly.

The Insights Collective is a think tank comprised of tourism industry experts that formed last year in an effort to quantify economic impacts of the pandemic on resort communities and ultimately guide officials through strategies that can support a high quality of life for residents.

“We came to this pandemic like you did,” said Carl Ribaudo, president and chief strategist of SMG Consulting out of South Lake Tahoe, California. “It was upheaval. What happens to tourism? What happens with communities? We spent a lot of time developing a planning framework, a way to think about all that’s going on and how do we get to a place where we can begin to envision the future and give clients like Frisco some confidence and control about how to proceed and where they’re going.”

The collective provided a presentation to council members on Frisco’s current economic position while setting the framework for better understanding opportunities and new insights coming out of the pandemic. To begin, the group dove into data to characterize the tourism industry’s current impacts on the town’s economy. Using a baseline of sales tax collections during shoulder seasons, the collective estimated that tourism — both primary sales to visitors and secondary spending on things like tourism industry supplies — accounted for about 80% of sales tax collections between 2016 and 2019, or about $110.4 million of the total $138 million.

With an understanding of the significant importance of tourism to local economies, the group moved into how “new realities” brought on by the pandemic could impact the industry and the community moving forward.

Among the several new realities identified by the collective were migration to mountain towns straining infrastructure and changing the community fabric, changes to how local services and restaurants offer their goods, changes to event schedules and adaptation of marketing to align with shifting tourism trends.

Frisco’s council members largely spun the discussion around how to continue providing a high-quality experience for visitors in light of new trends while still emphasizing a desire to maintain a culture built around a diverse and caring community. Continuing to address concerns about housing and socioeconomic diversity took center stage.

“What I’m hearing is no matter what the scenario, we’re going to see a rise in visitation, we’re going to see most likely a rise in residency,” council member Melissa Sherburne said. “And for me, it really boils down to the culture aspect. And to take that a step further, it goes to housing. … From my perspective, we know everybody wants to live here, and maybe we’ll reach that 50% (residency) a lot faster than we thought. We want to make sure that 50% isn’t all in the highest income segment possible — the Zoom workers, the work-from-homers. … Housing is paramount to building and maintaining and sustaining that community character and that culture across all segments of our workforce.”

Council member Dan Fallon agreed.

“It’s this continued gentrification of Frisco, and it’s pretty obvious wherever you go,” Fallon said. “It’s pretty obvious in the demographics that you see on the street, anecdotally, when you talk to people who are looking to buy or shop. The concern here in terms of the culture — that hybrid vigor that existed with that cross-pollination of socioeconomic groups that still had that Wild West element — it’s kind of been blanched out. The whole idea of kind of getting back to that cross-pollination, that hybrid vigor, introducing those different socioeconomic classes as intrinsic to our community and not counting on that to be part of that economic cohort showing up every weekend is really part of it.”

The meeting represented the first of two in which the town and Insights Collective will discuss strategies for implementing the town’s vision moving forward. The Insights Collective will return for a more detailed conversation Feb. 11.


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