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Annual spotlight on Sun Valley helps Idaho’s economy in ways large and small

Idaho's Biggest Toy Drive
Future in Focus: Sun Valley

“Good luck with the star sightings!” – overheard in the Sun Valley Village as a mother sent her late grade school-aged kids to explore.

Each year, the week after the Independence Day holiday, the media and tech press turns its attention to Idaho. Executives from the technology, media and finance worlds converge for the annual Allen & Co. conference.

We saw the likes of Sheryl Sandberg and Tim Cook walking along the brick-lined pathways. (I also chatted with Hollywood publication The Wrap about covering the event).

While the hush-hush panels and potential dealmaking take center stage, it’s prose like this from Variety that might be the true benefit to Idaho:

“After an unusually wet spring, the area’s forests and mountains are a visual feast, with an array of green hues offset by reddish-brown earth and color sprays of abundant wildflowers. Only time will tell if Sun Valley’s environmental conditions are ripe for great ideas and bold moves to bloom as well.”

Allen & Co. builds Idaho’s reputation

The Sun Valley resort red barn
The famous red barn at the entrance to the Sun Valley Resort. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev
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Matt Borud, Marketing and Innovation Administrator for the Idaho Department of Commerce says the exposure and attention have positive impacts for tourism in Sun Valley, and business in Idaho in general.

“I think any time Idaho is mentioned with this category of individual, whether it’s from an economic development perspective or a travel and tourism perspective, it’s obviously good for us,” Borud said.

He said the media coverage brings a level of attention to Idaho that can pay dividends down the road.

[Business, media, tech worlds focus on Idaho for Sun Valley event]

“Showing that validation that might spur folks to think about Sun Valley as a travel destination or think about Idaho for a relocation or expansion project,” he said.

Private jets sit on the tarmac at Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey Wednesday. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Harry Griffith, Executive Director of Sun Valley Economic Development said there are direct, tangible impacts from the conference. Full restaurants, hotel rooms and retail shops bring dollars. But, while harder to measure, the brand cachet the conference brings helps build the area’s economy.

“If you turn on CNBC this morning you are going to see the Sawtooths in the background,” he said. “You are going to see Sun Valley and what’s going on and the history of the (Allen & Co.) event. That all helps with the brand and marketing perspective.”

Griffith said the influx of visitors may come back – and continue spending dollars down the road.

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“People come here for this event maybe buy a home, or come back with their spouse or partner in another time of the year. It’s those transient and potential permanent impacts that we like to see.”

Sun Valley summer is big business, Allen & Co. an “anchor”

Sun Valley Resort skating rink
Skaters gonna skate. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Sun Valley originally got its reputation from the ski season. But these days, the summer season is the resort’s most popular time. The event is one of the top drivers of economic activity in the greater Ketchum area each year. It brings millions into the pockets of everyone from business owners to workers, to teens who serve as babysitters.

“This is an anchor in their summer season,” Griffith said. “Without Allen & Company, a retail shop might have one less employee. They know they can rely on two being full during the week, with the participants, security details and setup teams.”

Borud said the Allen & Co. event and Sun Valley are a strong match.

“Part of the purpose of choosing Sun Valley is it is a little quieter and more remote and off the beaten path. But it offers an incredibly high level of luxury and tremendous experience while you are there. It fits the mold if you are trying to find a fantastic experience and also keep a low profile.”

Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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