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.“

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