‘We can’t do anything without you’
EDWARDS – Colorado’s new governor has hit the road to talk about economic recovery. His first stop on that tour was Friday in Edwards.
Speaking to an invitation-only crowd at the Singletree Community Center, John Hickenlooper said he wants to put together a “bottom-up” plan to revitalize the state’s economy. To do that, he wants all of the state’s 64 counties to send plans and ideas for their areas to Denver by May 15.
Hickenlooper said he wants to tackle economic recovery in a “non-partisan” way.
“We want to focus on issues surrounding economic development, and what will allow us a more rapid ascent,” Hickenlooper said.
The idea, Hickenlooper said, is to get regions, and then the state, talking about new ideas for the state’s economy. He said there’s a problem in that different parts of the state don’t know what’s going on elsewhere.
In fact, he said, even individual companies often aren’t asked about how they can help.
As an example, Hickenlooper told a story about why the people who run SmartWool, based in Steamboat Springs, don’t have “Made in Colorado” stamped on their product labels.
“They said ‘nobody asked us,'” Hickenlooper said.
Pulling together all that information is going to be tricky, even within the state-defined geographic regions being asked to work together.
Eagle County, for instance, is in a region with Pitkin, Summit, Grand and Jackson counties. Those counties are all different, but four of the five can at least boast some connection to skiing and the second-home industry.
Jackson County, however, is different – very different.
Jackson county’s population density is less than one person per square mile. There’s just one incorporated town in the county, and ranching is still one of the main industries. The county simply doesn’t have the resources to put much into the way of planning.
So, while Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards urged Hickenlooper to find a way to help the Colorado Council for the Arts and to support “heritage tourism” in small, remote towns, Jackson County Commissioner John Rich had a more straightforward request.
“We need jobs,” he said.
Rich said future economic development in Jackson County will probably have to depend on logging, mining and similar industries.
While Jackson County has its own struggles, the people at the meeting in Edwards told Hickenlooper about some of the possible economic boosters already in place or in process, including an expansion of Colorado Mountain College and the prospect of a medical campus in Edwards at the proposed Eagle River Meadows project.
Hickenlooper said he believes the process of getting people talking – and doing it on a fairly tight schedule – will provide fuel to create a statewide council of marketing.
“The more we can market different areas of Colorado the more it will benefit all of us,” Hickenlooper said.
Hickenlooper has put together a cabinet with plenty of mountain and Western Slope connections – including former Club 20 director Reeves Brown of Grand Junction, former State Senator Al White of Hayden and former Rep. Christine Scanlan of Summit County.
“But it’s going to require a lot of local leadership to build this from the bottom up,” Glenwood Springs City Council member Dave Sturges said.
Some of those who came to the meeting said Hickenlooper’s plan is a good start.
“I think it’s inspiring that he’s taking the approach from the bottom up,” local bank president Mary Randall said.
Edwards resident and businessman Mike Budd agreed, saying, “I think he’s got some good ideas and concepts on the table.”
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.