Park City councilor, expressing optimism for recovery, sees economic effects of coronavirus as a ‘blip’

Official describes biggest concern as being possibility of business closures

Main Street businesses shuttered in March, in the early days of the spread of the novel coronavirus. Park City-area businesses suffered terribly at the outset of the sickness, but a member of the Park City Council this week described the economic impact as being for the short term.
Park Record file photo

A member of the Park City Council on Tuesday indicated he is not worried about the long-term economic impacts on the community of the spread of the novel coronavirus, appearing to express confidence in a rapid business bounce back.

Steve Joyce, a first-term member of the City Council who recently said he has not decided whether he will seek reelection later in 2021, made the comments during a City Hall-hosted online event.

The event covered a series of issues, including the municipal government’s efforts to develop an arts and culture district along Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard. Leaders are continuing a series of detailed discussions regarding the funding of a district. The City Hall portion of the project is estimated at $88.4 million.

Joyce said he is not worried about the coronavirus in the context of the funding of an arts and culture district.

“People are like ‘Oh, gosh, we’re in the middle of COVID. It’s going to tear everything apart.’ If you look at the way we fund these things, you know, again, they’re 15-year, 20-year projects … with multiple phases and 15-year bonds and things like that,” he said.

He also described the economic impact of the sickness as being for the short term and not as serious as had been projected. City Hall is especially monitoring the impacts on revenue streams like sales taxes.

“So, the idea of one blip of one-half year or year or something that, from a tax standpoint, hasn’t turned out to be as bad as anyone thought it was going to, that’s not my big concern,” he said.

Joyce, meanwhile, said he is most worried about the rest of the current ski season. Economic numbers are expected to drop during the ski season from a typical one, but the severity of the fall is difficult to forecast. There have appeared to be upside surprises during the early weeks of the ski season, including a holiday period that was believed to be solid for the tourism industry.

Other key stretches of the ski season are approaching, though. The Sundance Film Festival, usually an especially lucrative period, has removed all live venues in Park City. The economic hit during Sundance will likely reach into the tens of millions of dollars.

“My biggest concern would be just getting through this winter and making sure that we don’t lose a lot of businesses, which, right now, we don’t seem to be on track to do at all, but you never know. We’re still four months away,” Joyce said.

The economic impacts have stretched since March, when the spread of the coronavirus forced an end to the 2019-2020 ski season several weeks earlier than scheduled. There were also numerous event cancellations in the summer and fall of 2020. The unemployment rate in the Park City area spiked in the spring and dropped sharply before recently leveling out at an elevated rate compared to recent years.

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