Our View: Kern’s hiring holds great promise

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Editorial Board, May 11 through Sept. 21, 2011

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Laura Schmidt, community representative
  • Jim Miller, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— Thomas J. Kern won’t be a complete stranger when he arrives in Steamboat Springs next month to become the Chamber Resort Association’s new chief executive officer. Kern and his family have long visited here, even owning a mountain condominium for a time. But this will be no vacation.

Steamboat’s tourism-centered economy has taken a painful blow during the now years-long economic slump that also has crippled the construction and real estate industries. A funding crisis for the winter air program that brings ski season jets to Yampa Valley Regional Airport will head to voters this fall in the form of a new sales tax for city residents.

Competition for a shrinking pool of ski vacationers is fierce among mountain resort communities, and Steamboat has now been without a chamber leader for several months.

Kern now finds himself stepping into the role vacated by former chamber leader Sandy Evans Hall, and his to-do list is substantial. One of his first tasks: hiring a marketing director to replace Lynna Broyles who departed after Evans Hall earlier this summer.

But it will be the bigger-picture jobs that define Kern’s success as head of Steamboat’s chamber. Among them include :

■ Identifying a better dedicated source of funding for marketing Steamboat, particularly in the summer.

■ Increasing membership and participation from sectors of the business community outside of retail and resort-based industries

■ Driving business community development, and marketing Steamboat Springs to attract start-ups and location-neutral professionals. Economic growth outside of tourism-specific areas will be key to Steamboat’s long-term success as a community.

Fortunately, there’s a lot to like about Kern’s experience and his potential to push the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association forward. He’s been a city manager as well as a chamber executive in large metropolitan areas such as Fairfax County, Va., and Cincinnati. For the past three years, he has led the chamber of commerce in Lawrence, Kan., a university city of about 100,000. He also knows tourism-driven markets and is familiar with the Colorado resort market.

We’re excited about Kern’s ability to attract businesses and location-neutral workers to Routt County, a growing segment of our economy and one with substantial potential. Kern has been working on the location-neutral issue through a joint study between the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.

He’s also been praised for his ability to work with the public and private sectors and build consensus among various groups.

It’s that mix of experience that gives us confidence that Kern is the right fit at the right time for Steamboat Springs. His September start date can’t get here soon enough.

Comments

Scott Ford 2 years, 8 months ago

I have had the good fortune since I arrived in the Yampa Valley in 1992 to work for the past three Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association executive directors Bill Malone Dean Vogelaar Sandy Evans-Hall

I enjoyed all of them and each had their strengths and weakness because I know I had and still do have mine.

I disagree with the underlying premises of this editorial. Is it reasonable to ask someone to be the leader of organization that is to be all things to all people? Bill and Dean were very clear about what they saw as the "chamber's" primary mission. To use Bill Malone's own words, "Heads on Beds / Butts in Seats" To be sure they were involved in other things but never to the distraction of the "Heads on Beds/ Butts in Seats" mantra

Is it possible for the Chamber to be all things to every business entity that calls Steamboat Springs home? I am not sure. Is it a Chamber Resort Association first and foremost or is it a Chamber of Commerce? Sandy did not allow herself to get drawn into such a debate allowing the one proposing the question to define the differences.

What do we need most? I would be interested in others views. We can only hope that the hiring committee was clear in what they felt was the most important.

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