Business people: Some bulls, some bears
By Bruce Edwards
STAFF WRITER | August 20,2012
Patricia Donnelly and Bruce Bouchard both agree that the economy leaves a lot to be desired — but that’s where they part company.
“I think it’s dismal,” Donnelly said during last week’s Winter in August mixer in downtown Rutland.
Part of the solution, Donnelly said, is to get federal spending under control and that means reforms to Social Security and Medicare. Those are two items on the agenda of Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s choice to be his Republican vice presidential running mate.
Donnelly, a former city alderman, conceded that while some of Ryan’s agenda is “draconian,” the country can’t keep going down the same path.
Bouchard takes a different view.
“Make the rich pay their fair share of taxes,” said Bouchard, executive director of the Paramount Theatre.
Coupled with that, Bouchard said there needs to be more federal stimulus money to grease the economic wheels.
Donnelly and Bouchard represented a sampling of opinion at the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce’s 31st annual mixer and food festival that pays tribute to the economic benefits of the ski industry.
“It’s struggling right now,” said Gretchen Walker, whose husband Steve Walker is head chef at Baxter’s Restaurant at the Rutland Country Club. “We just need more jobs; we need to get more tourism into Vermont.”
From Bill Gormly’s perspective, the economy would improve if government got off the backs of businesses with needless regulations.
And in a year when a Midwest drought has drastically reduced the nation’s corn crop, Gormly would ban the use of corn in ethanol because it’s making food more expensive.
Moving on to the federal budget, he said “they should stop spending in Washington.”
The two local ski areas have more than a slight interest in the economy.
Both Killington Resort and Okemo Mountain Resort were represented at last week’s mixer.
“I’m liking my numbers that I’m seeing so far this year,” said Chris Nyberg, Killington’s general manager. “We’re off just a smidgeon on season pass sales.”
He said that’s pretty good news given the most recent ski season. Nyberg’s concern is that state government needs to do a better job of not only promoting tourism but targeting the right audience.
“They need to start thinking about the demographic that they’re promoting to,” he said. “The red truck in front of the red barn is probably not the right message for someone that’s a Gen-Xer or a Millennial.”
Ted Austin, Okemo’s vice president of marketing, said he was “very encouraged” by the upward trend in consumer confidence and an indicator of potential future spending.
“We’re bullish,” Austin said.
He said season pass sales for the upcoming 2012-13 ski season are off no more than 3 percent from a year ago.
“We’re thrilled with that because it suggests people are prepared to head right back into this winter as though last winter never happened,” Austin said.
He said Okemo’s summer business has met or exceeded expectations. The core of the summer program is its Adventure Zone activities which include a zipline, mountain coaster, climbing wall and Segway tours.