This photo and article first appeared in the Vail Daily on May 26, 2020
Gypsum Town Manager Jeremy Rietmann in April had a late-night epiphany: Why not invite the valley’s second-home owners to come for the summer, not just a weekend?
Several hours of work in the wee small hours later, Rietmann had the basics of a plan that became Welcome Home.
The idea is both “bold and boring,” Rietmann said.
“It’s bold, because we haven’t seen any other resort communities do it,” Rietmann said. It’s boring, he added, because “Is this even a strategy? We’re inviting people to come to places they already own.”
But that’s the heart of the idea.
Rietmann said people who own homes in the valley already have a financial investment in the place, along with an emotional investment. Those people also have property rights in Eagle County. They can move to the valley for a time and not be subject to possible restrictions on visitors.
The whole community benefits
While Gypsum doesn’t have many second homes, Rietmann said the idea is to boost the entire valley’s economy. Plenty of businesses that work in the eastern part of the valley have their headquarters in Gypsum. Many of the residents work in the resort areas.
More people living in the valley also means more people using the Eagle County Regional Airport, and more people shopping at Costco, both of which are in Gypsum.
“Normally a big component of our economy is tourists,” Rietmann said. But welcoming second-home owners is another way of putting people into restaurants and shops.
As Rietmann pitched his idea around the valley, the response was positive, and the Gypsum Town Council contributed some money to the effort.
The Vail Valley Partnership and Vail Valley Foundation got involved. So did Vail Health and a number of other local businesses and groups. Hyfyve, a local marketing company founded by Dennis McMahon, also got on board.
The result of several weeks of work is a toolkit to send to anyone in the valley who knows second-home owners, from Realtors to ski instructors.
“We’re going to mobilize our ambassador networks,” Vail Valley Partnership President Chris Romer said. “Everyone who has a connection to a second-home owner, we’re asking them to reach out.”
Romer said the Vail Valley Partnership has provided the Welcome Home project with a web landing page with resources for invitations, and information about what businesses are open in the valley.
Tye Stockton, a broker with LIV Sotheby’s International Realty, frequently talks about clients making a “flight to quality” from cities to the mountains.
Stockton said the Welcome Home idea is a good one. While Stockton’s been busy with potential new homeowners, he also keeps in contact with clients he’s worked with in the past.
“One of the beauties of our business is you form these relationships,” Stockton said.
A person Stockton has been working with this spring wants to get out on the Colorado River. Stockton is able to introduce people to restaurateurs, including Matt Morgan of Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard. New homeowners want to know where Stockton shops, and meet those businesses’ owners.
He’s happy to do it.
“That’s what this community is really all about,” Stockton said.
Romer said there are parallels between Welcome Home and Vail All the Love, a program created to provide deals to visitors during the national economic slump that began here in 2008.
“It’s how you look at things a little bit differently,” Romer said. “That’s something our community is really good at.”
Romer added that while he’s not in the business of selling against other communities, Welcome Home seems to be unique among resort communities.
“We have open arms — from 6 feet away, of course,” he said.
Vail Homeowners Association Director Jim Lamont said he thinks Welcome Home is a “good move.”
“We’ve got to get as many people in as many units for as long as they can stay,” Lamont said.
Rietmann said he understands that some residents may be skeptical of inviting second-home owners to stay for a season, or longer. Those skeptics “don’t understand” the relationship between the community and those who invest in it from afar.
“The message is ‘love your neighbor,’” Rietmann said. “Everybody’s going to benefit, and saving our economy will save lives.”