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Tourism is main driver for economic diversity in Teton Valley

Published August 02, 2023

Originally appearing and published on Local News 8, written by Braydon Wilson.

TETON COUNTY, Idaho (KIFI) - The Teton Valley area thrives on its summer and winter tourism. However, just a couple of years ago, the area was overwhelmed by a surge in tourism. Since then, they have scaled back the promotion of the area for tourism as a ploy to make it easier for the area, a risk that is seemingly paying off.

"We deliberately dialed back our promotion and scaled back a little bit the number of visitors we had last year. Our businesses told me they had a better experience, their employees had a better experience, and the visitors had a better experience," said Brian McDermott, the executive director of the Teton Regional Economic Coalition (TREC).

McDermott says last year, the area's lodging was able to bring in $37 million into the area. Already at the start of August, he says they are close to matching it.

"Depending on what the weather does between now and then. But we think that and our business is telling us this, that that's a pretty nice, sweet spot for us," McDermott said.

The Teton Valley area doesn't suffer from a bad winter season either. This is boosted by being so close to a ski resort.

"We have a good winter business because of Grand Targhee and winter activities, hunting, cross-country skiing, etc., snow machining. And we also still have, pretty much the month of mid-October through November and then late April into May are quiet seasons. So our businesses have a chance to get a breather. But during the winter and the summer business is good," McDermott said.

But while the area loves the tourism trade that brings lots of job opportunities, the unemployment rate is at a healthy 2%, something that TREC, is trying to help by diversifying the opportunities in the area.

"We like our visitor trade, but we want to diversify the economy, and that we have a great county economic plan that guides us as we do that. So we encourage tech businesses, we encourage recreation technology. We have two ski mining companies, a snowboard company, and a high-end chef knives company. We have Give'r Glove company. And those companies fit our small footprint desire," McDermott said.

Some of the challenges faced with diversifying the opportunities in the area is improving the housing market in the area as well.

"The challenge is housing employees and paying them enough. The tourism trade creates a lot of decent jobs, but they still don't pay enough to afford the average house here. And that's what our organization tries to work on," McDermott said.

McDermott says the area is focused on organic growth to help the area handle the amount of growth the area is seeing. "It's a very sophisticated strategy. It's incremental, it's organic growth with a little bit of boost in certain sectors. And it's the kind of growth that the citizens want."

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