Vail Daily column: Economic development happening at a local level | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Economic development happening at a local level

Chris Romer
Vail Valley Partnership

What exactly is economic development, and why is it important?

Economic development (as defined by the American Planning Association) is the process of improving a community's well-being through job creation, business growth, and income growth (factors that are the typical and reasonable focus of economic development policy), as well as through improvements to the wider social and natural environment that strengthen the economy.

The Vail Valley Partnership and the Economic Council of Eagle County have been involved in a variety of efforts to help stimulate Eagle County's economic climate in order to help our business community — essentially, economic development at a local level.

The Economic Development Leadership Council is a volunteer committee of the Economic Council of Eagle County which serves as Eagle County's economic development task force. The council serves an important role as business representatives helping to provide direction on various economic development opportunities and serving as official ambassadors for prospective businesses looking to relocate or expand their operations in the Eagle River Valley.

In a short time, the council has helped outline areas for future economic development efforts in Eagle County, as well as the top areas that they will focus on. We'll use this feedback from the business community to draft an updated economic development plan by the end of the year.

Top areas for economic development in Eagle County, as spotlighted by the Leadership Council:

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• Future economic growth/diversification.

• Growth and expansion of current businesses.

A fairly clear set of objectives, action items and trends are being developed based on the work of this group of stakeholders, representing industries from banking to development, real estate to lodging, government to small business. This working group is focused on creating SMART objectives and measurable outcomes that will be incorporated into a revised Eagle County Economic Development Plan, building on the 2010 plan developed as part of the Colorado Blueprint.

Numerous other groups are working on various tasks related to economic development on a local, regional and state level, and the Partnership is engaged with each of these to ensure that the voice of our business community is heard.

Locally, the Economic Development Leadership Council efforts (led by private industry) are running parallel with various efforts led by Eagle County and at the municipal level including a working regional collaboration task force exploring ways for communities to partner together and work across parochial boundaries for greater efficiencies.

The EGE Air Alliance is an additional example of a local group focusing on economic development in a very tactical manner: increasing nonstop air service to the Eagle County Regional Airport from key destination markets.

Regionally, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments is working on a variety of economic development efforts including development of a Regional Strategic Plan for Broadband for an eight-county area, which consists of Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt, and Summit counties, and the city of Glenwood Springs and town of Carbondale. The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments also brings workshops and program opportunities to the business community including management of the Northwest Load Fund and other economic development resources and tools.

At a state level, the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade and the Colorado Workforce Center are focused on sector partnerships, essentially seeking to broaden and deepen the collective efforts between education, workforce development, economic development, and industry through industry-led needs discussions. The Office of Economic Development & International Trade has spotlighted 14 key industry segments, including tourism/outdoor recreation and health/wellness.

These local, regional and statewide efforts are all inter-related and the Partnership is representing our community at each level to ensure that the needs of our business community are addressed at each step of the way.

It's a work in progress, led at a local level by industry and other key stakeholders. It's our job at the Partnership and Economic Council to listen to these voices and to the needs of our municipal and private industry stakeholders in order to ensure that regional and state efforts incorporate our needs into their plans.

We'll continue to work to connect business and municipal efforts and to support our business community via a variety of resources. Equally important, we'll make sure our local voice is heard at a regional and state level.

The process of improving a community's well being through job creation, business growth, and income growth (the definition of economic development) doesn't take place in a vacuum and it's not an overnight process.

Please feel free to visit VailValleyPartnership.com or contact us for additional details on these various economic development efforts.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.