Ahead of the Curve

Hi. I'm Jima Rice, author of "Ahead of the Curve!" I hope you find my blog interesting, stimulating, and a fast read. It is designed to provide information and insight into our personal being, our local communities, and our world.

For 30+ years I have run Rice Consulting, a boutique business development consultancy with high-quality skills in progressive business strategy and management practices for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations.

Ahead of the Curve allows me to expound on a variety of topics that are ripe for progressive thinking: the economy, business management, government, human behavior, science, spirituality, and others that invite thoughtful and constructive comment. Some articles are specific to Idaho's Wood River Valley where I live (better known as Sun Valley); others range more widely.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ketchum Business Group - Plan for a Visitor Center

Overview:  A group of local businesses, known as the Ketchum Business Group (KBG), has formed for the purpose of marketing Ketchum’s diverse attractions to the public in ½ of the URA-owned public space at 491 Sun Valley Road (based on mutually agreed square foot measurements).  The space would be:

§  The first place visitors stop and their home base while they visit;

§  An interactive marketing site (and strategy) to show off the 360˚quality of life in our city, i.e. the obvious, and not so obvious, facets of life here;

§  A sense of place in the city for locals of all ages, as well as visitors
KBG’s objective for the space would be to stimulate increased short-term and long-term business for proprietors in all business niches, and taxable income for the city, by capturing greater numbers of return visitors, new visitors, and new residents seeking to enjoy all that we offer.  Word-of-mouth, SVMA and COC marketing, and other business marketing efforts would generate interest in the space as a destination all on its own.

Elements in the space would emphasize the extraordinary qualities and richness that have consistently attracted people - from ski-bums to families to weekend business travelers to retirees - to live here, whether they ultimately support themselves through employment, business start-ups, location-neutral businesses, personal wealth, or retirement funds.  The space would mostly market Ketchum, but also portray Ketchum in its incredible context, i.e. the Wood River Valley and beyond to Craters of the Moon to Stanley.  As residents, we know no one can fully grasp this area in even a one-month visit but visitors need to fully appreciate that.  After all, you can’t be interested in what you don’t know exists!

The Space:  The currently available space of 2,000 square feet would be opened up entirely, except for a small office for management. It would be homey: colorfully painted and decorated with 3-4 comfortable armchairs (as well as other chairs), a gas-burning stove, rotating local artist works, books, newspapers, up-to-date magazines  – and perhaps a shelter dog named “Town Square”  or “Plaza.”  There would be a welcoming space for families with kids: toys, video games, as well as room for kid-to-kid and teen-to-teen mingling. Complimentary coffee and tea would be available. Restaurants willing to provide immediate delivery at the space on food orders would advertise that service.

The space would offer intriguing information about Ketchum on walls, posts, and pillars:

§  its outdoor amenities;

§  its various restaurants, retail, and other commercial businesses;

§  its entrepreneurial sector;

§  its extraordinary educational institutions for children;

§  its diverse arts and culture institutions and activities;

§  its athletic training programs;

§  its spirituality and abundant non-profit life;

§  its history;

§  its nationally known businesses: Smith, Power Engineers, Rocky Mountain Hardware

These displays would incorporate computer-based information, locally-prepared videos, written and visual marketing materials, photos, and local products to introduce visitors to the many aspects of Ketchum’s social, economic, athletic, healthy, spiritual, and cultural life. Low-level western-themed background music would play. The spirit of the space would be energetic, up-to-date, fun, and interactive. For example:
1. A video loop might show Steve Miller playing a guitar made by a local instrument maker, or a hat being embroidered by a local company, or a meal being cooked by a local chef.  Another loop might show Caritas Chorale, Sun Valley Symphony, and Sun Valley Opera performances.  Another might show our various artists at work.  

2. Organizations could rent a two-sided plastic marketing envelope of varying sizes that would hang from a semicircular brushed metal bar attached to a wall or post that visitors could flip through - like fabric samples. The envelopes would be grouped by sector: restaurants, retail stores, guide businesses, educational institutions, non-profits, tourist sights, arts and culture organizations, historical sites, etc.

3.  A film, video loop, and/or photos could show Ketchum’s history, accompanied by circulating items from Ketchum’s Historical Museum.

Management: The space would be staffed by knowledgeable and service-conscious people – many of them volunteers - including young professionals and older citizens. They would be trained to “sell” local fun, entrepreneurial and small business opportunities, and Ketchum’s overall strengths to visitors. In high season, the space would be open seven days a week, including holidays, from 8 am to 8 pm. Final staffing and other proposal details, especially for the shoulder seasons, have yet to be determined by KBG, pending more information from the URA

Marketing.  The space would be marketed to the public by all Ketchum businesses through word-of-mouth, brochure display, and their websites, as well as on government websites and other marketing media and opportunities. The KGB would also expect the URA to supply signage at up to no fewer than eight significant points through the city pointing toward the space 

Funding.  Funds for the space’s rental from the URA would come from:

§  An affordable formula of contributions by Ketchum businesses who market in the space, based on income and # of employees;

§  Businesses not based in Ketchum could also to market through the space, e.g. Sun Valley Company, Power Engineers, Hailey and Bellevue businesses

§  Monthly paid “special marketing opportunities” for businesses from anywhere in the valley;

§  Ketchum city funds;

§  Past rents due to the URA that were mistakenly paid to the city for rental of URA properties;

§  USDA rural development funds and other government funds that promote entrepreneurship and economic development (but not tourism).

Responses to RFP submittal parameters for 491 Sun Valley Road.  The KBG has responded  below to the parameters set by the URA for a lease agreement. Note that our responses, in certain cases, vary from the URA’s parameters. 

1.  The Ketchum Business Group intends to enter into a lease agreement with the URA should it be selected as the Operator. However, the Group needs a reasonable amount of time to establish itself as a for-profit, cooperative, or not-for-profit business and to prepare a business plan based on information requested by the KBG from the URA.  The yet-to-be-finalized plan would satisfy both KBG’s and the URA’s goals. 

The KBG asks for two weeks from today to supply the KBG with requested information so that the Group may finalize its planning.  There may also be questions asked by the URA which KBG would be expected to answer in that time frame.
2.  The KBG has indicated its intent to be open for business seven (7) days per week.  Going beyond RFP requirements, we also intend to open the space on holidays.
3. The KBG would expect the URA to undertake tenant improvements cited by law as its responsibilities, i.e. rehabilitation of the existing deteriorating space for use by a business-generating entity, including:

§  Removal of tinted film on building windows and/or window replacement;

§  Upgrade of water and sewer service to the building to accommodate  “ordinary use” city and state codes;

§  Upgrade of power service to the building to accommodate “ordinary use” city and state codes for heating and electricity;

§  Upgrade of HVAC system to allow for comfortable interior temperatures;

§  Renovation of the interior to open up and then appropriately finish the space, to provide up-to-date interior lighting and water supply, to install a gas stove, to upgrade bathrooms (including handicapped access), and other such suitable and reasonable renovations to be negotiated.
4.  If we are the selected operator, the KBG expects to have win-win consultations with the URA regarding the design of the Visitor’s Center space.
5. The estimated annual cost of the lease will be determined based on a competitive market rate per square foot per year, as determined by three independent parties.
6.  KBG may pay for all monthly utility costs including water, sewer, electric, gas and trash pickup, pending negotiations with the URA.  The URA will pay outdoor winter and summer maintenance on the Town Square, and winter snow removal costs from the front of and back doors of the space.  No property taxes are assessed.
7.  The lease term will be for three (3) years with two extensions of duration subject to terms negotiated by both parties.
8.  The KBG will obtain a valid Ketchum Business License and any other necessary licenses.

Evaluation criteria.  The KBG responds below, point by point, to the criteria set by the URA for evaluating proposals for leasing 491 Sun Valley Road. Note that our responses, in certain cases, vary from URA criteria: 

1.  History and experience of the operator.  The KBG, while a new entity, is composed of well-established business owners known to the city who possess a diverse array of experience in retail, real estate, commercial, high technology, food services, and other types of business. These businesses are well-known by the city and the URA as a major, ongoing source of tax income.   

Once formed, the KBG will be able to supply the URA with any requested credit information, financial statements and/or an affidavit stating that we are not in default in payment on any taxes, excises or license fees due.  If we form as a partnership or corporation, we are willing to submit evidence that we are authorized to do business in the State of Idaho.

2.  The KBG expects that the URA, as owner of 491 Sun Valley Road, will supply statistics as to the current daily and seasonal level of foot traffic generated by its current uses. This will be factored into our estimates of expected foot traffic, again to be indicated in our business plan after receipt of this information.

3.  Revenue benefits to the URA will be:

§  Income from the agreed upon market-based rate for the lease;

§  Increased economic activity for the city, with consequent job creation, business income and associated taxes, expanded population, and growth in assessed property value;
4.  The KBG will provide at least three (3) references.

5.  The KBG will open the space by July 1, 2011 – based on the city’s timely collaboration on renovations. If the city is unable to collaborate on renovations for any reason, the KBG will negotiate with the city regarding other means of renovation through its own contacts and opportunities. The opening date for the space will shift further into the summer accordingly.  

Before ending this proposal, the Ketchum Business Group wants to emphasize, again, its purpose in seeking to rent space at 491 Sun Valley Road. Our marketing message is: 

Ketchum is so beautiful, so diverse in its opportunities, so rich in its sense of community, so replete with arts and culture, so full of recreational opportunities, so supportive of business diversity, so “balanced” in its approach to life that YOU would love to, and should be living, here!!!

The objective of the message would be to: 

§  Bring visitors back to visit

§  Attract older visitors to live here

§  Encourage young people to move here and work or start a business here

§  Show families the quality of life they would enjoy were they to relocate

§  Attract established businesses to move

§  Bring location-neutral people to live here and telecommute for their work 

Our aim is to stimulate a growing (not shrinking) population of diverse interests and ages, an enlarged tax base, more income for established businesses and therefore more jobs, an influx of more high-tech and young professional people, and a vital and thriving economic community.