Opinion: Basalt officials ready town to emerge from pandemic crisis

This opinion piece originally appear in The Aspen Times on May 17, 2020.

Bill Kane and Kris Mattera, Guest commentary

Basalt has worked hard over the past two months to slow the spread of the coronavirus. That effort showed great resolve and cooperation across our community. And while this endeavor has been successful with regards to our health and safety, it has pushed our small businesses and employees to their limits.

Now comes the hard work of reopening, recovering and rebuilding. We must do this while striking a balance between public health and serving the economy. That means working with public health officials in Eagle and Pitkin counties while listening to our local business owners on the challenges they face with social distancing, serving customers and keeping employees on the payroll.

This crisis is constantly evolving, requiring greater communication and collaboration between local governments, chambers of commerce, business owners and employees. This is clearly going to be a difficult balancing act, but one that we are committed and dedicated to on behalf of our community.

For this reason, the town of Basalt and Basalt Chamber of Commerce are partnering to reach out to business owners, establishing lines of communication between our two organizations and community members who contribute to our local economy. As part of this effort, we launched a listening tour to gain invaluable feedback from local businesses to the town and chamber.

Basalt’s core businesses — including restaurants, retail, medical and personal services, tourism, construction and recreation — face unique challenges and opportunities due to the pandemic. It is important to hear first hand about their experiences and concerns. We hope this provides insights into unique perspectives and creative solutions to meet the needs of our region’s future economic landscape.

Of course, this effort will take many hands. Thanks to council members, Ryan Mahoney and town staff, the Chamber Board of Directors and executive director, and community volunteers, we will use this listening tour to guide our next steps. The listening tour evolved from Councilman Bill Infante’s outreach to local restaurants and will now include all council members, focusing on the following six business clusters:

  • Retail: Bill Kane and David Knight
  • Child care: Gary Tannenbaum and Ryan Slack
  • Construction: Glenn Drummond
  • Lodging: Elyse Hottel
  • Restaurants: Bill Infante
  • Health and wellness: Elyse Hottel

By gaining a better understanding of what our business community is facing, the town and chamber can identify how best to support our economy. That will include Town Council working to ensure that Basalt can be open, flexible and supportive of businesses, without losing sight of the public health crisis we face.

In the short term, council will be discussing how to safely stimulate summer activity. This may include marketing efforts, expanding outdoor dining, adding to our parking supply and other steps to make it easier to visit Basalt — and to stay safe and healthy.

The town and chamber will work together to connect business leaders with local, state and federal resources and will be active participants regionally with our counties, neighboring towns and economic partners to envision, plan and implement strategies and tactics that will lead to short- and long-term recovery.

We know that our residents and local business owners care deeply about our community. We all want what’s best for Basalt and the Roaring Fork Valley. We look forward to working with all members of the Basalt community to emerge from the coronavirus crisis with the tools to stay healthy and to build a strong and resilient economy.

If you would like to get involved, please contact the Basalt Chamber at director@basaltchamber.org.

Bill Kane is the mayor of Basalt. Kris Mattera is the executive director of the Basalt Chamber of Commerce.