Valley State: Top influencers say Eagle County is making progress in housing, transportation and workforce development

Eagle County commissioners, two members of the Colorado Mountain College board of trustees and the county’s chief financial officer celebrated the grand opening of a new apartment complex in Edwards on Monday.
Carolyn Paletta/Vail Daily

We know only too well the difficulties of the valley in terms of housing and retention of the workforce. But Valley leaders believe there is positive momentum, particularly with voter approval to create a new transit authority.

The Vail Valley Partnership and Vail Symposium hosted an annual State of the Valley session on Wednesday, and there was some post-election excitement.

Wednesday’s session panel included Jeff Shroll, Eagle County Executive, Nadia Guerriero, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Beaver Creek Resort, Will Cook, CEO of Vail Health, and Phil Qualman, District Superintendent. Eagle County School. The four spoke at length about the state and possible future of the valley’s community and economy.

This included a long discussion about housing, of course.

Shroll noted that several housing projects are under construction or about to be. Each of these projects is relatively small, especially compared to studies that show the county has a shortage of around 6,000 units.

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But, noted Shroll, all of these projects are pieces of a larger puzzle.

“It’s like how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” Shroll said.

Guerriero noted that Vail Resorts has invested $300,000 over the next five years in a partnership with the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, adding that collaboration and partnerships are “essential” to strengthening the valley’s housing stock. .

Qualman agreed, noting that the school district added about 150 rentals for teachers and staff after sending 17,000 letters asking landlords if they would be willing to rent a room or two to a school district employee.

But, Qualman added, affordability is at least as important as inventory. Rents for a new 37-unit complex under construction will be tied to employee wages, Qualman said. A beginning teacher will pay about 30% of their income to rent this complex, or about $1,200 per month.

There will be more entry-level or entry-level positions to fill in the coming years as older workers retire or relocate.

Panel moderator Chris Romer said there were approximately 3,500 vacancies in the Valley.

This equates to approximately 10% of the school district’s workforce. At Vail Health, about 15% of positions are open, with 40% of vacancies at Colorado Mountain Medical.

Cook said staffing is the “biggest threat” to the organization’s ability to provide care.

Guerriero said Vail Resorts is working to nurture new leaders among its frontline employees, with the message, “You can have a career at Vail Resorts.”

Shroll noted that Eagle County commissioners have launched a study on compensation compared to similar counties in the area.

Like most organizations in the valley, Eagle County has vacancies, primarily among those who provide “basic services.” A building manager position has been open for some time, Shroll noted.

But panel members expressed some optimism that the decision by county voters to create a regional transportation authority has the potential to help people get around the Valley.

Shroll noted that the new transportation authority – which has plans for community routes and “last mile” service – will “transform” the Valley’s ability to move workers and residents.

This system will have a wider impact than basic transportation. Cook said better public transit could also improve many residents’ access to medical care.

While the new authority will take some time to integrate the equipment and drivers into the system, Qualman had one request: “Please don’t take any of our bus drivers.”

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