Saying sayonara to 2015 with a list of the year’s top business stories
Park City Mountain Resort ski patrollers vote to unionize
For 15 years, the Canyons Professional Ski Patrol Association, a member of the union chapter United Professional Ski Patrols of America, represented ski patrollers at Canyons Resort. But all that changed this winter as Vail Resorts combined Canyons Resort and Park City Mountain Resort into one property and integrated the patrols of each resort into a single unit.
The contract the Canyons Professional Ski Patrol Association had with Vail Resorts expired in October, and since it didn’t represent the majority of patrollers in the new integrated unit, the organization’s influence came to an end. But leaders of the group moved quickly, filing a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election on whether to form a new union comprising the patrollers from both of the resort’s base areas.
Vail Resorts encouraged the patrollers to give the company a chance to prove the benefits of not unionizing, but the patrollers chose narrowly to form a new union in a 97-94 December vote.
Patrollers in favor of unionizing hailed the vote as a way to maintain a "seat at the table" for years to come and as a way to make their voices heard. They also touted it as a crucial step to keeping ski patrolling a viable long-term career in a town with a rising cost of living.
Johnny Miner, a longtime patroller and hill captain at the Canyons Village base area of PCMR, told The Park Record that despite unionizing, patrollers do not view Vail Resorts as the enemy — in fact, they will do all they can to ensure the company and PCMR prosper.
"It’s extremely important that people realize that our union is not anti-company," he said. "We want Vail (Resorts) to succeed. If they don’t succeed, we don’t have jobs. All we want to do is make the best possible patrol we can and the best possible work environment."
Commercial rent rises on Main Street
Many people involved with businesses or organizations on Main Street believe that the mom-and-pop stores lining Park City’s historic district are one of the town’s most unique and appealing attractions. But as the costs of renting commercial space on Main Street increase, so are concerns that many smaller retailers may soon be priced out of the area.
According to numbers from the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield | Commerce, the average cost of commercial rent on Main Street had shot up to $58 a month as of the summer, up from $47 in 2014 and $40 in 2011. The rise caught the interest the Historic Park City Alliance, which represents businesses in the Main Street area, and City Hall. The two groups formed a committee to explore whether the rent increases are threatening retailers and what can or should be done.
Some, such as Steve Hooker, director of office/investment/retail/land for Cushman & Wakefield | Commerce, aren’t worried. He told The Park Record that he didn’t anticipate the cost of rent forcing many retailers out of business. But others are not so optimistic. Laura Montecot-Fruth, who owns Grace Clothiers on Main Street, said she has friends who have been unable to open businesses in the area because prices are too steep. As for her, she signed a cost-controlled lease in May of 2014.
"I’m lucky," she told The Park Record, "I got in within the time that I could afford to be here."
Outdoor Retailer remains in Salt Lake City
The biannual Outdoor Retailer, the largest trade show of outdoor products in North America, has been held in Salt Lake City for the last 17 years. But the city’s contract with Emerald Expositions — which owns Outdoor Retailer — was set to expire in 2016, leading some to claim Utah’s unfriendly environmental policies were leading the trade show to explore other cities.
Kate Lowery, a spokeswoman with Emerald Expositions, denied those claims however, telling The Park Record that the company was not basing the show’s future location on politics. In any event, the company announced in the late summer that it had extended its contract with Salt Lake through 2018.
Peter Metcalf, co-founder of the Salt Lake-based Black Diamond Equipment and a significant figure in the outdoor industry, told The Park Record before the deal was announced that the show staying in Salt Lake was vital for local retailers, including many in Park City.
"That helps your brand and your company because you’re in a great spot that people equate with outdoor recreation," he said. "You (would) lose so much opportunity to showcase your brand, let alone the dollars that flow in."
Concerns grow as snow is scant in 2014-2015 ski season
Park City, along with much of Utah, has been hammered with snow in recent weeks, certainly lifting the spirits of businesses that rely on ski tourism. But no such storms came last ski season, leading to one of the driest winters on record.
Lower-than-average snowfall in Utah’s mountains over the past few years have piqued worries about the long-term effects of climate change on the ski industry. In October, Ski Utah announced a partnership with the environmental group Protect Our Winters to help raise awareness about the issue.
"(Climate change is) a huge issue, especially for a state like Utah that hangs its hat on the greatest snow on Earth," Nathan Rafferty, president and CEO of Ski Utah, told The Park Record. "We’d like to see it stick around."
Businesses deal with credit card shift
Oct. 1 marked a major shift for many companies that accept credit cards. It was the deadline for retailers to install credit card terminals that accept chip technology (as opposed to than the magnetic strips customers have been swiping for decades) lest they be held liable for cards used fraudulently in their stores.
In Park City, opinion about the urgency to make the change was mixed. Some business owners said credit card fraud is so rare in town that failing to update their credit cards to the more secure chip technology wasn’t much of a risk. Others were eager to keep up with the new technology.
Tom Terry, a manager at Baranof Jewelers on Main Street, told The Park Record that taking extra measures to ensure security is just a part of business these days.
"Some people, by the time I’ve run their credit card, their company has emailed them or is calling them to make sure that they’re actually using the card," he said. "It’s one of those necessary things that may not have even been conceived of a few years ago, but now it’s the way to be. It’s standard operating procedure."
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