The City of Ely recently received a grant for $28,000 to bring in Roger Brooks who provides assessments to communities who are in need of help boosting their communities economy, tourism, and overall look.
Brooks and his wife came in and spent a few days in Ely. They flew in to Salt Lake City and drove in.
The first thing they noticed coming into Ely is the empty run down buildings, the rusted out old cars lined up were a huge eyesore to see driving into town.
“We thought this is a dying town,” Brooks said. “We did not get any information up front, we came in like any other visitor or tourist.”
Brooks said they looked at several different factors: Is this a place people want to live, retire? What is the quality of life here? They also put on the hat as an investor, what would it take to invest?
Brooks came up with 87 suggestions for the community. He was not able to cover all of them during the two and a half hour presentation but highlighted some that he felt were very important.
The only money Brooks said he was able to spend was on dining and lodging. There were not any souvenir stores open, and nothing available for purchase.
He also noted he overheard several times locals talking about how they wish the tourists would not come to Ely, and that they wish the loneliest highway was still lonely.
“I would think that’s a good thing the road has more traffic,” Brooks said.
Forty one vacant buildings were discovered, which makes up over 50 percent of the downtown area. Grants to have the buildings torn down are available.
Brooks mentioned it was better to see a vacant lot rather than a run down, empty building.
Brooks said he had no idea what type of business the location of Hometown Pizza was until he drove up and walked into it. The signage out front of the motels should explain why someone should stay there.
“Tell us about your remodeled rooms, comfy beds, themed rooms, everyone has wi-fi, so that’s unnecessary to put on a sign,” Brooks said.
He complimented Hunter’s Cafe, saying they did a great job with their signage, but suggested additional beautification such as hanging baskets.
He mentioned he was unsure if Racks was ever open because of all the buildings around the business being closed down. He suggested better signs to help with that.
He congratulated the Greek for being the only business downtown open after 6 p.m.
“I think the businesses are their own worst enemies in Ely, and it’s not everyone but it’s a large share of you,” Brooks said.
Women account of most consumer spending, and 70 percent of all retail spent, that takes place after 6 p.m. Many of the stores in Ely are closed by 6 p.m..
Ely is a recreational paradise, and it’s not promoted enough. Brochures and itineraries to have available for tourists was discussed.
“You are a recreational paradise, hunting, fishing, bathtub boat racing,” Brooks said.
Promoting the activities not the location is what should be focused upon more.
In addition, it was mentioned that places like the Art Bank that’s only open 16 hours out of the week should be open on a regular basis. Brooks said that was their biggest disappointment of the week.
“Tourists were looking in through the windows,” he said. “I’m sure they wanted to spend money, but it was closed.”
The golf course was mentioned. No signs as to where the clubhouse is, what is inside the building, if there’s food, beverages, carts for rent, what the hours of operation are.
Brooks said “a guy came out of the clubhouse and asked what we were doing, we said taking pictures, he said of what?”
The presentation brought a lot of light to several business owners, elected officials and the community. It was noted that out of 85 of the 87 suggestions, 85 of them could be fixed for $10,000 by adding signs, pots and plants, and benches which businesses need to do.
Grants for some of these projects were mentioned. Ely could be a tourist destination from April through October and if enough visitors traveled through during those seven months that would be enough to sustain for the other five months.
Brooks said during the presentation, “Your potential is amazing, get rid of that word potential….Ely is amazing.”