Keith Bailey said he liked the mission of the Saratoga/Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce (SPVCC), which is "Serving the Valley businesses and visitors by enhancing our economic vibrancy."
Saratoga, like many small towns is fighting an aging infrastructure they can't afford to replace or expand upon.
"Defining the mission is probably the easy part," Bailey said.
With communities working toward similar objectives the opportunity for growth and development is a "zero sum game," Bailey said. This community's gain is another community's loss.
Bailey said he believes three things were key to greater success in achieving the chamber's mission. Education, making better use of the Valley's natural advantages and providing faster internet speed in the Platte Valley.
"Education is perhaps the single most important element to a success community," Bailey said. He described the efforts his mother and her friend went through to ensure the school he attended offered four year math programs. According to Bailey, that change in the system allowed Bailey and his classmate to have successful professions.
Bailey said he credits his success to the fact that the school system was willing to adapt to their needs.
The point, Bailey said, is that the education system needs to be responsive to equipping students for the widest range of possible opportunities. He believes the students in the Platte Valley can benefit from the use of technology to provide courses that are not available otherwise.
Bailey said he was pleased to see the partnership between the school system and the PVCC to try and achieve this goal. The PVCC recently had a major upgrade in technology to provide the higher speed connectivity to have real-time, classroom-style content delivery. "The beauty of this approach is that the classes can be offered to fit the student's schedules and not the other way around."
Bailey said he hopes the chamber, in partnership with the superintendent and school board would aggressively pursue a partnership with colleges like the University of Wyoming and other state technological colleges.
As Bailey moved on to the subject of taking advantages of the Valley's natural advantages, he compared the physical beauty that the surrounds the area and the fact that the main streets in the communities have empty store fronts.
Bailey said the existing motels need to invest in upgrading the quality of their facilities and that would be a major help. "Several of our businesses have tried to upgrade their exteriors with a fresh coat of paint, but many more still need to come to that party," Bailey said. He also said that the community at large needs to be challenged to present themselves in a more attractive way.
Bailey described how Anchorage, Alaska introduced a program which transformed the city into the "City of Flowers and Lights". Homes and businesses had flowers planted in window boxes or the yard which, according to Bailey, brightened the city in the summer and gave a visitor a sense the Anchorage residents had pride in their community.
Bailey said he is frustrated when he sees the proposed Tyler Pickett Park west of the Saratoga Resort and Spa being used a dumping site. "I know private sector individuals have contributed significant resources to provide a design that would turn what has been a dumping place into a real community asset."
Bailey said he believes a motto of "Summer in the Good Times Valley – Where the Music Never Stops" would be much more constructive that being known as the Valley where the fighting never ends over music venues.
Bailey recommended two types of events that have worked in other communities. One is a 15k run and a marathon, plus a series of other shorter runs during the year.
Competitive cycling was another activity that Bailey recommended stating both of these events would have an impact on the community's economy since some people love the challenge of pitting themselves against the Valley's altitudes.
Faster internet would not only attract more people to the area, Bailey said, but help enhance the educational flexibility. "It would make our community much more attractive ad a visitor destination and as a residential destination.
"Young people today choose a community before they seek a job," Bailey said. "But they only consider communities that offer state-of-the-art communications capacity."
Bailey said the community has the opportunity to be on the leading edge of the transformation, but could also be left behind. "That is a choice, and it should be a conscious one."
About Keith Bailey
Keith Bailey is the retired Chief Executive Officer of Williams Company and was the guest speaker at the Saratoga Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce Jan. 8 at the Platte Valley Community Center.
Bailey, who began his life in Wyoming, has lived in 11 different cities and towns, and nine states before returning to Wyoming.
Preferring the small-town life attracted Bailey and his wife Pat to move to Saratoga.