A variety of economic development efforts are occurring within Colorado that will have a direct impact on Eagle County and our own focused efforts related to economic development.
Eagle County is included in rural resort Region 12, as designated by the state of Colorado.
Additional counties in Region 12, include Pitkin, Summit, Grand and Jackson. The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG) is a voluntary association of county and municipal governments that strive to work together to focus on regional efforts and oversee this region’s economic development plan.
Eight goals have been identified by NWCCOG’s Economic Development District:
Goal 1: Support and strengthen existing businesses.
Goal 2: Attract new businesses and industries to create vibrant, resilient economies.
Goal 3: Focus on projects that bolster tourism.
Goal 4: Protect the natural environment.
Goal 5: Focus on existing and renewable energy resources to include development of additional energy sources; assist with identification of funding.
Goal 6: Create sustainable Main Street and downtown projects.
Goal 7: Workforce development — create and/or expand workforce development, training, educational opportunities to focus on training and education programs across all economic sectors.
Goal 8: NWCCOG Economic Development District to be point of contact for economic development activities — technical assistance, information, data, capacity building, etc.
While not every regional goal is relevant to Eagle County, it is crucial to Eagle County’s successful economic growth to build partnerships with NWCCOG and the NWCCOG Economic Development District. Three programs initiated by NWCCOG at a regional level are of particular benefit to Eagle County are:
1. Sector partnerships: Industry-led collaborations designed to address workforce, supply chain or other industry challenges.
2. Regional broadband project: An eight-county strategic plan for increased broadband capacity.
3. Northwest Loan Fund: Loans money for start-up and expanding businesses that may not qualify for traditional funding.
Active participation with NWCCOG at a regional level ensures that Eagle County’s interests are represented in various regional efforts. As the largest (population and workforce) county in the region, it is important that our voice is heard.
Similarly, efforts are in place at a state level that impact Eagle County. The Colorado Blueprint is the state’s economic development plan. Six goals were identified through a statewide public engagement process:
Goal 1: Build a business friendly environment.
Goal 2: Retain, grow and recruit companies.
Goal 3: Increase access to capital.
Goal 4: Create and market a stronger Colorado brand.
Goal 5: Educate and train the workforce of the future.
Goal 6: Cultivate innovation and technology.
A key component of the Colorado Blueprint was the identification of 14 key industry networks — of particular interest to Eagle County are our top three opportunity job sectors: Tourism and outdoor recreation, health and wellness, and creative industries
The state also offers tools that benefit local economic development efforts, including the Colorado INSITE tool, a comprehensive database with data on state-wide commercial space, building size, community information, company details by NAICS code and more.
Numerous state agencies relevant to the 2014 Eagle County Economic Development Plan operate under the Office of Economic Development and International Trade. These include (but are not limited to): a small business development center, a Colorado workforce center, a Colorado tourism office and a Colorado innovation network.
Active participation with the state of Colorado and relevant agencies within the Office of Economic Development and International Trade ensures that Eagle County’s interests are front of mind and our business community has access to state resources.
It is important to note that the economic development plan outlined and discussed during the past few weeks is designed to supplement and support (not replace) municipal level economic development efforts, providing a tie to county-wide, regional and state-level activities.
This commitment to collaboration by all parties is needed to achieve the core objectives outlined in the plan. I encourage anyone interested in learning more to access the plan at www.vail valleypartnership.com and provide feedback.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.