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County talks about how to Get in the Game
EVERETT With the Winter Olympics and Paralympics coming to Vancouver in 2010, Snohomish County community members have begun discussing ways to tap into the impending influx of visitors now.
To that end, Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon hosted Get in the Game, a public forum at the Everett Station Oct. 17, during which a panel of area businesses shared their strategies for turning tourist traffic into long-term economic growth.
Kim Bedier, general manager of the Comcast Arena at the Everett Events Center, spoke about her personal Olympic experiences, from her fathers sports radio reports at the 1968 games in Grenoble, France, to her attendance of the 1988 games in Calgary, where she organized a northern section of the torch run. She also participated in the failed Toronto bid, which lost to Beijing, and worked at the Medals Plaza in Salt Lake in 2002.
The point I was making is how lucky we are to be this close to the winter games experience, Bedier said. Our facility supports the Olympic movement from a grassroots perspective. Our Everett youth hockey and figure skating groups train potential Olympic athletes, we host speed-skating and the Special Olympics, and we really draw focus to winter ice sports.
Robert Boyd, president of the Orca Creative Group in Woodinville, charted his business progress in British Columbia, from being virtually unknown there in 2005 to doing $8 million in 2010-related business by 2007.
People asked how hard it was, and it wasnt really, but it required a lot of work, said Boyd, who summarized Orcas steps as researching the market of British Columbia, building awareness and positioning themselves within that market, and mapping out their tactics and strategies.
There are seven barriers to success in any market, Boyd said. A lack of commitment, an impatience with the process, a lack of planning and follow-up, a failure to understand the culture, a failure to understand the market, waiting for one big deal to come through, and sending inconsistent or confusing messages.
Brett Magnan, executive vice president for hotel operations at the Tulalip Resort Casino, admitted that his goal was to market his business as a destination for those Olympic visitors, but he characterized this aim as an instance in which a rising tide could lift all boats.
Is it self-serving? Absolutely, Magnan laughed. But its also a phenomenal opportunity, and not just for one or two businesses. We believe that we could bring a quality image to the whole county. Its not a matter of stealing business from each other. We can work together to grow this whole area as a destination.
Magnan has worked with the SnoGold 2010 Tourism Committee, which is developing training programs for community colleges, to prepare professions such as hotel services for a surge of tourists.
These people will be seeking out other entertainment, Magnan said. Theyll be coming weeks ahead of time, to enjoy our culture, athletics, restaurants and other area services.
Zoran Rajcic, director of business operations for the Everett Silvertips, touted his teams partnership with the Comcast Arena as helping to grow the local demand for winter ice sports such as hockey. He believes that the Comcast Arena could host a training camp for Olympic athletes, and expects to know by 2009 if this will happen.
When asked what such an arrangement could mean for local businesses, Rajcic estimated that the World Juniors Hockey alone brought $400,000-$500,000 in trade to the area.
This should just be the beginning of our long-term business relationships, Boyd said. We need to ask ourselves what will happen when the games are over.