Our View: Lifestyle economy a worthy investment
August 28, 2012
The Urban Land Institute's presence in Steamboat Springs this summer has centered on the future of Yampa Street as a pedestrian-friendly shopping and dining district, but it was broader input from the Institute's CEO that should strike a chord across the community.
It's no secret that tourism has been the foundation of our economy for the better part of the past three decades, but the more recent impact of the location-neutral workforce in Routt County is harder for many folks to grasp. The significance of that growing segment of our community shouldn't be underestimated, particularly as Steamboat sets a path forward for future growth, economic and otherwise.
Patrick L. Phillips, head of the Urban Land Institute, underscored that point during an economic seminar sponsored last week by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. Phillips, himself a part-time resident of Steamboat, leads the nonprofit organization whose mission is to "provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide."
Phillips emphasized Steamboat's potential to attract well-educated young adults through the combination of economic diversification, intellectual stimulation and lifestyle-enhancing amenities. He pointed to several imperatives to Steamboat's ability to attract "millennials," a term that refers to the generation of Americans currently in their teens to early 30s: investment in amenities; capitalizing on the growing importance of technology; diversification of housing options; nurturing a strong relationship between the public and private sectors; and protecting community institutions related to education, culture and health care.
If some of those imperatives sound familiar, they should. Steamboat Springs and greater Routt County have spent much time, energy and resources on amenities, housing and community institutions in recent years. Technology infrastructure has been a more recent push and one that will be critically important to our ability to attract the young, highly educated professionals who can help our community prosper well into the future. Recent news of AT&T's push to provide 4G LTE network capability throughout the region is significant.
But attaching a specific economic value to government expenses like bike trails, community support funding for nonprofit agencies and other non-essential services is a challenge, particularly during difficult economic times. So how does it all fit together? There's not an easy or straightforward answer, but a focus on a lifestyle economy has been key to Steamboat's growth since 2000, and we think it will be essential to our future. By focusing first on being a great place to live, we can't help but be a great place to visit.