Grand Enterprise Initiative
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Posted on January 7th, 2022

As I sit here watching the snow dump on our already snowed-in landscape, I am reminded of the article written by John Meyer that ran in the Denver Post way back on November 27 of 2021.

In the realm of weather perception, that seems like eons ago. Try and remember the hand-wringing that was going on then. Many ski resorts in Colorado had delayed their openings from early or mid-November to late November. And the openings, as they were, featured very limited terrain on less than desirable snow.

Right here in Granby, where the Granby Ranch Ski Area was planning a major professional ski race, the worry was causing ulcers and real fear. They just weren’t able to make enough snow.
Why? It wasn’t cold enough — at night, especially.

These not-so-cold temperatures were disturbing because it wasn’t so long ago that ski areas, even if it wasn’t actually snowing in November, could count on cold temperatures so that they could make snow. That was a huge innovation in the industry that expanded ski seasons, brought tourists to ski communities a month or two early, and made for a longer ski season and more prosperous economy in general.

Take away the cold air, make it warmer and that innovation begins to be, well, diminished, and in some places, nonexistent.

The gist of John Meyer’s article was that most people in the ski industry are increasingly aware of the threat that climate change poses to their business model. They look at it, rightfully so, as an existential threat. It is. It poses some threat to our overall local economy too.

Even worse, the extent of climate change and warming is more extreme in places like Grand County and the mountain West, where ski areas are generally located. Consider this from the Denver Post: “An analysis by the Washington Post highlights the climate change challenge facing the region. Based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data between 1895 and 2019, the analysis found that a group of counties in northwest Colorado and Eastern Utah warmed more than 3.6 degree Fahrenheit. That’s double the global average.”

Great.

And the future trend, based on climate models, “predict that average temperatures in Colorado could rise 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050,” states John Fox in the article by John Meyer. Fox wrote a recently published book called “The Last Winter.”

No matter how I look at it, the prospect of shorter ski seasons and, perhaps, nearly nonexistent ski seasons, seems very real.

The industry is trying to do something about it. Ski areas are buying green power to run their lifts, initiating energy-saving programs and trying to reduce their carbon foot prints. Must most importantly, several of the large players are banding together to do what they can to confront the real threat of climate change.

John Meyer states in his article: “Like Aspen, Vail Resorts is involved in combating climate change through the public policy arena. This year it announced a partnership with competitors Alterra Mountain Company, Powdr and Boyne Resort to present a united front in something called the Climate Collaborate Charter. Alterra operates 15 North American resorts including Steamboat and Winter Park. Powdr operates 11, including Copper Mountain and Eldora.”

I want to believe that this consortium of ski areas can start to promote and enact the message that climate change is the biggest challenge of our century. It is an existential threat, not only to the ski industry. My hope is that battling climate change can become a unifying (and non-partisan, non-culture war) national endeavor like when the U.S. fought in WWII. God knows that our nation needs a unifying effort the can help bring us together under a common cause.

And, just maybe, help our local economy too.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He is also the author of “KILLDOZER: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage.” He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.
 

Posted on October 15th, 2021

In Grand County, smart public and private partnerships can spur new business and provide jobs.

That’s just what has happened with clients the Grand Enterprise Initiative worked with in Kremmling. Grand River Aviation, owned and operated by Keith and Joanna Whitemarsh, is now the FBO (Fixed Base Operation) provider at the Kremmling McElroy Airport. 

The airport is owned by Grand County and the Town of Kremmling. But those two entities wisely have decided that the operation at the airport, which provides on the spot services to aviators flying in and out of the airfield, should be offered to the private sector.

Through an aviation fuel revenue sharing agreement and some fees for services, Grand River Aviation is able to set up a commercial operation at the airfield and offer expanded and improved services to the aviation community flying in and out of Kremmling.

This while Grand County and Kremmling can rest assured that members of the aviation community flying in and out of Kremmling are getting the best service possible at a relatively small airport.

“We’re here to connect people who fly in with everything they would need or want in the county,” says Joanna Whitemarsh. “We also offer them any services they might want from an airport.”

The list of services offered through the Whitemarsh operation is lengthy, but it includes fuel and fueling services, a clean lounge for pilots and passengers, food and drinks, lavatory services, rest rooms, aircraft rental, flying instruction, a gift shop, rental cars, courtesy car, hangar space and tie downs.

Rest assured that if there are services a team flying into Kremmling might want that can’t be offered through Grand River Aviation, Keith and Joanna can connect them to it. They operate like a mini chamber of commerce and business referral operation, all with the goal of keeping pilots and perhaps their passengers happy to have flown into Kremmling.

A major goal of Keith and Joanna is to put Kremmling McElroy Field on the Rocky Mountain aviation map. This way pilots and plane owners and even the increasingly popular passenger jet rental market will see Kremmling as a good place to land. They might even see it as an alternative to landing at other, larger resort airports such as in Eagle County or near Steamboat.

“We are more affordable and less crowded that Eagle County or Vail,” Keith says. And more friendly, too. “We can offer a personal touch and attention to detail that some larger operations can’t.”

The Kremmling airport, with a length of 5,540 feet, can’t accommodate the larger passenger jets that are the bread and butter for the ski and resort industry in Eagle and Routt counties. But there is good business to be done with the local aviation community, owners of resort and ranch properties in the area and for emergency services.

The Kremmling airport was the staging area for many of the helicopters and at times other aircraft used in fighting the fires that have increasingly come to plague the Rocky Mountains and Grand County.

With a longer runway and increased local and resort demand, the Kremmling McElroy Field airport is prepared to become a significant player in the Rocky Mountain aviation universe.

Joanna and Keith Whitemarsh of Grand River Aviation, in partnership with Grand County and the Town of Kremmling, are there paving the way for great aviation possibilities in West Grand County.


Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.

Posted on October 1st, 2021

Wow. Business, and public sector business, is booming in Grand County.

And I don’t write that as if I was a chamber of commerce, all-growth-is-good sort of booster. I’m just pointing it out, really. Read on.

My quick look at Grand County’s sales tax and property tax figures, and related increases, in the last two years has created an eye-popping experience for me. And as they say in some sectors, as goes the public sector, so goes the private sector.

Public sector revenue continues to grow and grow, which may not be news to some but it’s worth seeing just some of the figures from the Grand County government side as contained in the most recent abstract (unaudited).

Let’s start with sales tax revenue to Grand County from its one percent tax on all retail sales in the county. In 2018 total retail sales in the county amounted to $557 million. In 2019 that number was $613 million. For 2020 there was a whopping $819 million in total retail sales in the county, and that was the year of the first COVID peak.

So, in two years, sales county wide increased by roughly 45 percent. That means the county’s income from sales taxes went from $5.5 million in 2018 to $8.1 million in 2020. Once again, on the conservative side, that’s an increase in sales tax revenue of 45 percent in two years.

I want to shout that out and put exclamation points after it, but, well, the numbers speak for themselves. That’s some amazing growth in sales.

These sorts of numbers are echoed by many people in the private sector here in the county, which is charged with the task of collecting that one percent sales tax.

Property tax valuations in the county tell a similar story although it’s not as drastic due to the nuances of valuating property such as lag time in assessments and other factors. Nonetheless, consider this: The county’s assessed valuation in 2018 was $663 million. That number has gone up to $809 million for 2021. The word is that it may go to a billion by next year.

Nobody, five years ago, would have predicted such a thing.

With all the building that’s going on due to the fire recovery and just normal new building activity, the total valuation on all new construction (new homes, remodels, etc) for single family home is likely to triple this year compared to last. Triple.

So, this is what I call “booming.”

And yet, we are paying a price, so to speak.

Since I’ve been mentioning county numbers here let’s consider this. The county’s road and bridge department alone is down 17 employees. Now, maybe, you know why that pothole on your road hasn’t been fixed recently. Overall, the county is down about 40 employees.

Once again, I want to put an exclamation point behind that last sentence, but I refrained.

These sorts of numbers about public sector employee shortages are echoed in other counties as well. Summit County is down something like 40 employees as well in county government jobs. It’s happening in other mountain counties as well.

As goes the public sector, well, so goes the private sector. We all know and have been complaining about employee shortages, clogged-more-than-usual roadways and empty shelves at our supermarkets. Business and tourism and construction are booming, but we are truly struggling to keep up.

Is this just a bubble that will burst in a year or two? I doubt it. I think we have several more years of this sort of activity because COVID, combined with natural population trends, has stirred a sleeping giant.

Grand County is only two or three hours away from the booming Front Range and now those urbanites and suburbanites really know it.

Hold on to your horses! (Finally, that exclamation point.)

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.

Posted on September 17th, 2021

When it comes to mask and vaccination mandates, follow the money.

It’s way too easy to blame these impositions on our lives as meddlesome government intrusions and myth-based molly-coddling. It’s too easy to go all bleeding heart and blame these intrusions on do-gooding public health workers who have an outsized worry about protecting health and lives.

Yet in the end, when it’s all pared down to the basics, it’s all about business, public “business” and money. I suppose I could say it’s all about the economy.

What I write in this space every other week is a business column. And when it comes to business these days in Grand County, the United States and the world, COVID plays a very big role, unfortunately. And to put it bluntly, COVID outbreaks, COVID surges, COVID deaths and COVID illness for individuals are very bad for business (unless you are in the vaccine-making or mortuary sectors).

For people who insist that mandating masks in schools or certain public spaces (I see this surging, if you will) is a violation of personal liberty and our right to the pursuit of happiness (I suppose), consider that major corporations all across the United States were mandating masks for employees and customers long before any governmental intrusion. They did this because it was better for business.

The same applies for vaccine mandates. Before our government decided to try some limited vaccine mandates major corporations and employers across the U.S. were already strongly encouraging (if not outright requiring) vaccines for their employees. Why? Because it’s good for business.

And what’s good for business is good for America. All self-identified Patriots out there might want to keep that in mind.

The usually right-leaning personal liberty zealots (there are libertarian-type left leaners in this category too) who complain the most about mask and vaccine mandates are almost always proponents of good and strong business practices and freedom in the realm of business. I’m sure they would identify with the notion that government intrusion hurts business in general and they’d extoll the virtues of a free and open market place.

And yet, business interests are speaking out on their own in favor of these mandates, even enforcing their own mandates. Why? Because, in the long run, they are good for business. They don’t want to be back where our nation was one and a half years ago when business was shut down and halted. They want to do all they can to prevent that.

I think it’s fair to say we are having a COVID outbreak in our schools (five or more cases in a related building or activity) and I know our schools do not want to send students home for on-line learning in mass again. Why? It’s bad for business because mothers (and fathers) will have to be at home watching those kids while they learn on-line.

One big reason for the lack of employees in this county during COVID was just that. People couldn’t work while their kids were at home. Like I said, that’s bad for business.

Or, even more important, schools get their money from the state based on attendance. When scores of kids or all the kids aren’t in school student counts drop and state funding does too. Like I said, that’s bad for public business.

Common sense and proven public health measures, like masks and vaccines, have been tainted by an absurd ideological bias that is based on knee jerk reactionary impulses fueled by lies and propaganda that usually originate on-line.

Slowly but surely the business community is starting to realize that this knee-jerk ideological bias is, simply, bad for business.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.

Posted on September 6th, 2021

They say demographics are destiny.

Which makes me think that the low-population (comparatively) and low workforce numbers Grand County has been enduring for years are likely to continue. I’m referring here to the census numbers released last week that show the county population is up by 5.9 percent, which is actually a meager increase when compared to the state, which saw a 15 percent increase.

This has implications for our businesses, our schools, local government and our tourism base.

Personally, I was hoping that Grand County could at least have boasted a population in excess of 16,000, even 17,000. This is because study after study shows that business stability and business growth over time is driven primarily by full-time, year-round residents. In the simplest distillation of that, places with more permanent residents have more business and more stable businesses and a better tax base.

Places with more permanent residents have also have the force of numbers and human momentum that result in better education, cultural expansion and diversity of viewpoints and political power. More people equals more votes, which equals better representation for our area.

We could parse why Granby and Fraser have the largest increases. It is still the truth that Granby is the largest town in the county with more than 2,000 residents. There was a time that I remember when Kremmling and Granby contended for being the largest town.

Many people who don’t know any better just assume that Winter Park or Fraser would be the largest towns in the county. They aren’t. But if Fraser and Winter Park were to merge and become one town, that town would be the largest town in the county with 2,433 residents, or roughly 400 more than Granby.

For those who have come to Grand County to escape the world or enjoy a placid retirement, the drive to get more permanent residents may seem to be a bad idea. They needn’t worry because our permanent resident increase isn’t astounding.

The real news of the census figures is in the housing units. The census says the county has 16,633 housing units, with a growth of only 572 in 10 years. That seems wrong (Did the Troublesome fire enter into that math? Seems unlikely as the Census county took place before the fire.) And less than half of our housing units are occupied, which is a unit where the primary owner lives elsewhere or it is unoccupied.

Here we go again on the trend wherein Grand County just might lead the state for what we call second homes. These are, basically, vacation homes. It used to be that Grand County had about 60 percent second homes. That’s a large number and that trend is continuing.

That points to a conundrum all of us have seen in the last four years. While permanent resident numbers aren’t booming, the truth is that our roads are much busier, our hiking trails are getting crowded and the lines in stores are longer. Tourism numbers are certainly up and they far exceed the growth rate of 5.9 percent for the county.

The best gauge of that is the massive jump in sales tax revenues throughout the county that far exceed our population growth rate. That’s because more and more visitors are coming to the county boosted by increasingly strong (sometimes seemingly desperate) marketing campaigns, the boom in short term rentals, COVID and the population boom on the Front Range.

But here we go again. We don’t have enough people living here year-round to handle that outsized increase in tourism. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

I’ve heard some people second guessing the census numbers, saying the Census miscounted or under-counted or misclassified some situations because of COVID-related issues, etc. But my gut feeling is that the numbers seem right.

Grand is still a sparsely populated county challenged by a burgeoning tourism economy that stretches the limits of local resources to pay for and service the growth.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching for anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.





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