Gov. Hickenlooper's Bottom Up Economic Development Plan - in which the Vail Valley Partnership was an active participant - resulted in a statewide strategy, the Colorado Blueprint, which is being implemented in a variety of ways including the statewide Key Industry Networks, Regional Economic Development Partnerships and others.
As a refresher, the Colorado Blueprint examined how the state can be more competitive as a place to do business, thus improving our economic vitality. The authors of the Blueprint interviewed thousands of Coloradans to determine economic opportunities and priorities.
Six core objectives were identified through this process:
• Build a business-friendly environment.
• Retain, grow and recruit companies.
• Increase access to capital.
• Create and market a stronger Colorado brand.
• Educate and train the workforce of the future.
• Cultivate innovation and technology.
What does this mean for us here in Eagle County? How do we ensure that our region benefits from these efforts taking place at a regional and state level?
The Vail Valley Partnership recently attended the "Colorado Sectors Summit" in the Denver area along with approximately 250 attendees from industry, nonprofit organizations, economic development, workforce development and education fields. We spent two and a half days focusing on various economic development issues and building a regional approach to developing "sector partnerships."
The general concept of a sector partnership is to work together to develop a coalition of the willing - private industry, government, education and other stakeholders such as chambers of commerce - to create an atmosphere of shared ownership. Specifically, shared ownership of both problems facing us and shared ownership of the solutions to solve problems facing industry and the business community. It's not a search for consensus, but rather for various stakeholders to work together to identify new ways to get business done.
Sector partnerships are industry driven, data driven and opportunity focused. As such, they are not system driven and they are not wishful thinking and maybe most importantly, they are not problem driven. There are fewer resources at our collective disposal - and there are no superheroes out there that are going to solve our problems for us. The idea that someone (be it government or a large employer or an industry group) is going to solve our problems isn't a strategy that will likely lead to success.
Fortunately for us, here in Eagle County and the Vail Valley we are way ahead of the pack in terms of partnerships and collaboration.
The Vail Valley Partnership has, over the past three years, been building "coalitions of the willing" via our various programming efforts designed to bring industry (and government and special districts as appropriate) together to collaborate and work together. Examples include our Sports and Event Coalition and the Health and Wellness Initiative - consisting of stakeholders willing to put competition aside in an effort to work together to grow the proverbial pie for all. Similarly, our Vail Valley Merchant Alliance has worked to bring all the various chambers, merchant groups and industry groups together on a regular basis to streamline benefits and cross-promote our individual town merchant programs and business events via the Partnership's countywide and statewide efforts.
More recently, the Economic Council of Eagle County and Vail Valley Partnership's "Economic Development Leadership Council" has had its first meeting and will continue meeting monthly to identify issues ranging from making Eagle County a more business friendly environment to identifying key areas of future economic growth in our community. This group consists primarily of private sector volunteers who each recognize the importance of working together as a region across parochial boundaries to identify our economic opportunities.
The Partnership also recently partnered with the Steamboat Chamber and Resort Association and the Grand Junction Economic Development Partnership to attend the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow in Salt Lake City. We hosted a booth as the "Western Colorado Economic Development Alliance" and focused on outdoor retail oriented businesses that match our brand and might be interested in relocating their business from states such as California (not exactly business friendly) to Colorado, specifically Eagle County, the mecca of outdoor recreation.
These efforts, much like the developing "sector partnerships" at a regional and statewide level, are not mysterious occurrences or one-off efforts. Instead, they are the new way to get things done to address our challenges with limited resources. It's our expectation that they will help Eagle County achieve the six objectives outlined by the State of Colorado and to help create a stronger local economy.
Interested in participating in the various collaborative programming led by the Vail Valley Partnership? Connect with over 790 local businesses and join the VVP. Membership starts at just $1 per day. Visit www.vailvalleypartnership.com to learn more.
Chris Romer is executive director of the Vail Valley Partnership.