Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bottom-up Economic Development Meeting with Governor Hickenlooper--Jan 14th

On January 14, 2011 Governor Hickenlooper and staff held the second event in a series of 8 economic development meetings following Executive Orders he signed on his first day in office that are directed at promoting economic development and increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of state government.
All Ouray County Commissioners, Town Council Members and City Council Members were invited along with representatives of the Ouray Area Chamber of Commerce, Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce, Community Development Committee, Region 10, Ouray County Multijurisdictional Housing Authority, and Town/City Managers.
Included in those attending the meeting from Ouray County were Gary Hansen, Ouray City Council Member; Jennifer Smith, President of the Ouray Community Development Committee, Jennifer Mandeville, Development Coordinator of the Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce (RACC), Brian Scranton, RACC Vice President, who also serves on the Ridgway Planning Commission.  Lynn Padgett, Ouray County Commissioner, was present at the table of county representatives with Governor Hickenlooper,  Lt. Governor Joe Garcia, Head of the Colorado Department of Tourism, Al White;  Head of the Department of Local Affairs, Reeves Brown; Region 10 Director Paul Gray; and Beth Taylor, who is the Western Colorado Business Development Representative for Ouray County and other western Colorado counties out of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.  San Miguel County Commissioner Elaine Fischer, Hinsdale County Commissioner Allen Brown, and Gunnison County Commissioner Paula Swenson were also present at the table.
The Governor spoke about cross-promoting Colorado’s businesses, landscapes and small-business innovation as a key to driving economic development during hard times.  He also spoke about the need for creating and retaining jobs in our counties and the need for a regional economic development plan and state economic development plan that includes county economic development plans by May 15.  The Governor views this as a "bottom-up" "county driven" process.  He said that the State could be more business friendly but not at the expense of natural landmarks and land use regulations. 
Around the table, Commissioners and other representatives took turns highlighting the challenges and some successes of economic development in the 11 counties that comprise Region 10 and Region 11.
Commissioner Padgett discussed with the Governor how important tourism, including heritage tourism, adventure tourism, recreational tourism, and family tourism was to our county.  Commissioner Padgett discussed how hard it is for a county as small Ouray to have “shelf-ready” projects to go after grants which pop up with tight timelines, and that Ouray County needs assistance and resources to do strategic planning and economic planning, and to accomplish the projects local business owners and leaders know will be beneficial to our economy by enhancing and diversifying it.  Commissioner Padgett gave the examples that enhancing trails systems, bike paths, and having the resources to follow through with Ridgway’s Streetscape Plan will be beneficial for economic development. 
Others at the table vocalized concerns that Ouray County has brought up to this Governor (as Governor-elect in December) and continues to share—the importance of sustaining the Enhanced Rural Enterprise Zone incentives, the need for broadband bandwidth and redundancy to attract more entrepreneurs and businesses that depend on the internet, the importance of having our popular State Parks (such as Ridgway State Park) be open year-round, and the importance of looking at state regulations to see if they can be streamlined or simplified for local governments and businesses, and the need for working capital for small businesses. 
Former State Senator Al White was introduced as the new head of the Colorado Department of Tourism.  He explained that when Colorado quit promoting tourism as a state in 1992, Colorado lost of its market share.  "Tourism is the number 2 industry in Colorado."  White stated that for every $1 the State spends on promoting tourism, $6.75 is returned to the State in the form of revenue and $193 goes to Colorado businesses.  The floor was opened up to comments from the 100 or so people in attendance. 
For next steps Commissioner Padgett thinks,  “A state-wide economic development plan that supports what locals know they need is very exciting.  To have the State Tourism office appropriately funded and marketing Colorado beyond our state borders again is going to be very helpful.  We need to form a core group of countywide stakeholders’ representatives, including the two Chambers, governments, businesses, and schools, to look at the existing strategic plans within the county, look at recent plans of similar counties, and synthesize the key ideas into a strategic plan outline to present to our citizens and businesses for input. The Governor wants to get strategic plans, in any form, from counties in May.”  Padgett goes on to explain, “If we have an outline in early April, we could have a plan to present for incorporation into the statewide plan in early May.“

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ouray County's Enhanced Rural Enterprise Zone Status is Good For All

Ouray County is part of 6-county Enterprise Zone that includes Delta, Montrose, Gunnison, Ouray, San Miguel and Hinsdale Counties. Ouray County has also been designated by the State of Colorado as an Enhanced Rural Enterprise Zone (EREZ) since 2003. Being designated as an Enterprise Zone allows businesses access to lucrative tax benefits designed to encourage business growth. Being located within an Enhanced Rural Enterprise Zone provides even greater financial incentives to businesses of all sizes to promote and encourage new job creation in designated economically lagging rural Enterprise Zone counties. Many of these credits can be back-claimed up to 5 years, but in January 2012 businesses will need to be precertified BEFORE claiming credits. Download the linked brochures for moe info. 

Some significant incentives that Ouray County businesses may take advantage of include:

* New job credit for EREZ: $2,500 total state tax credit per each new job over 20 hours/week;

* New Ag job credit for EREZ: $3,500 total state tax credit per each new agricultural product processing job;

* Investment tax credit: 3% of qualified equipment purchases (can include computers and vehicles);

* Job Training tax credit: 10% of qualified training expenses (can include travel, tuition, meals);

* Vacant Building Rehabilitation tax credit: 25% of rehab expenses (hard costs) for buildings 20+ years old and that have been vacant at least 2 years prior to the rehabilitation;

* Research & Development tax credit: 3% of increased R&D expenditures;

* Manufacturing and Mining Sales and Use tax credit: Expanded State sales and use tax exemption;

* Health insurance credit: for employers paying a portion of employees' health insurance premiums -- $400 for each additional new job

A huge Enterprise Zone benefit to citizens of Ouray County is that additional tax incentives to those who give charitable donations are available if the donations are given to qualified organizations and projects that successfully apply to become an Enterprise Zone Contribution Project.  Examples of groups and project that are already qualified through Region10 and the State of Colorado are Wright Opera House Foundation (Ouray), Museum of the Mountain West (Montrose), (Habitat for Humanity Re-Store) and 17 others in the 6-county Enterprise Zone.  To qualify projects are subject to review and approval by the Economic Development Commission.  Those present at the happy hour thought local museums and even the Ridgway Streetscape Plan could be good fits.  A Colorado taxpayer who contributes to a Enterprise Zone Contribution Project can receive a 25% state tax credit for cash donations and 12.5% state tax credit for in-king contributions, in addition to any federal tax deductions they qualify for.  This encourages greater contributions to these projects and significantly greater tax incentives for those making donations.  The first step for an organization or project to get this designation is to contact the Enterprise Zone Coordinator, Rhona Keckler at Region 10.

Besides business tax incentives and contribution project incentives there also is an Enterprise Zone Marketing Grant program administered by Region 10.  In the past the Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce has applied and received funds to help pay for advertorials and advertising among other marketing tools.  Grant funds can be used for preparation, production, and distribution of market research, printed materials, advertizing, web promotions, and other items.  The Ouray Resort Chamber Association used these funds to bring in prominent national newspaper travel writers to highlight the area to potential visitors.  The grant program typically accepts grant proposals between November 1 and November 30.  Rhona Keckler of Region 10 is the contact person for those interested.

Region 10 also coordinates small business loans available to Ouray County businesses.  The funds used by Region 10 for the loan program come from both federal and state programs including Colorado Development Block Grants, Small Business Administration Microloan Program, "Revolved" Loans, and participation loans with financial institutions.  Applications and eligibility requirements vary between  funding sources.  Loan interest rates vary between very low to low.  Due to the various options, Ouray County Businesses desiring a loan for working capital, equipment, inventory, real estate, or other supportable expenditures should contact Paul Gray at Region 10, 970-249-2436 for a custom-fit loan. 

All of these programs are designed to promote economic development of the Region 10 Enterprise Zone and Ouray County as an Enhanced Rural Enterprise Zone.  If any of these programs sound like something a Ouray County business could have utilized in the past, please still contact Region 10, as many incentives can be still captured if the qualifying activities are five or less years ago.

Region 10 reported that over 4.6 million dollars in tax credits had been realized by businesses just in the 6-county Enterprise Zone during a portion of 2009.  These incentive programs really help our businesses and circulate dollars in our region.

For full information about your specific situation please call Rhona Keckler at 970-249-2436x10 and visit Region 10's EREZ page.  Brochures are linked to this post.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Small Business Happy Hour at Colorado Boy on January 8th @ High Noon



I am hosting a experimental small/micro business happy hour at the Colorado Boy this Saturday, Jan 8, from noon to 2pm.  Paul Gray, Executive Director of Region 10 will be there.

The purpose of the happy hour is to reach out to our Ouray County, Ridgway & Ouray small and micro businesses and highlight the opportunities such as tax credits, job training reimbursements, and other incentives to doing business in Ouray County that are currently available right now.  The entire County is an enhanced rural enterprise zone, and this does not seem to be commonly known. Also, Region 10 has enhanced its Small Business Loan program recently, so those who may have had trouble in the past, should come and learn what's new and if they could benefit.

In addition Beth Taylor, Western Colorado Business Development Representative of the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade, will either be present or will have info for us to give out about free business development and enhancement programs that are available to small businesses such as help with marketing plans, business plans and more.

We also hope to hear from our small and micro businesses what barriers and challenges we have, and what local government's role should be in encouraging economic development.  I will be carrying the take-home messages and action items from those present to the Governor's economic development team later this month, and to Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. in March.

I apologize that this event conflicts with the Ice Festival this weekend.  It is my hope that the happy hour concept can be repeated in the future at various small businesses and venues around Ridgway and Ouray, to really reach out to those who might not be able to attend a forum, may not be Chamber members, and may not be using a CPA. 

This happy hour is free, and open to all.  I hope to see you there, and that you will forward this info to your friends and colleagues, even if they are working as a consultant out of a home office.  These are opportunities for us all.

Lynn Padgett

Lynn Padgett | 970-417-9901

Ouray County Commissioner, District 1
Bin C, Ouray, CO 81427

Official County web site:  http://www.ouraycountyco.gov Lynn's web site:  http://www.lynnpadgettforouraycounty.org