Our View: Kern’s hiring holds great promise
August 2, 2011
Steamboat Springs — 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.
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■ 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.