Romer: Small business drives community |

Romer: Small business drives community

Chris Romer

Contrary to popular belief, Colorado did not see a population boom over the past few years; our population growth was the slowest since 1990 and our net migration (people moving to the state) was the lowest since 2005. Eagle County’s growth was even lower than the state’s growth.

Growth can take on various shapes within a community. From population growth and economic growth to infrastructure expansion, Eagle County had shown growth for many years. Population drives the economy, which drives employment needs, which drives the labor force, which drives business growth and opportunities.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses create two out of every three net new jobs in the private sector. Plus, over half of all Americans own or work for a small business. Small business is the engine that powers the community. Therefore, vibrant communities not only make it easy for entrepreneurs to get started but also provide leadership and skills training to make sure they can survive and succeed over time, which, in turn, keeps local economies strong.

Besides providing jobs, having lots of strong small businesses is good for the economy in other ways. Small businesses provide tremendous tax revenue. They keep dollars recirculating inside the community. Plus, their owners have a vested interest in the community and can be galvanized to help you solve larger problems and drive positive change.

Growth for the sake of growth is a poor goal, but growth to support our entrepreneurs and small businesses is essential to community success and vibrancy. Why is small business success important to our community? Eighty-three percent of Eagle County businesses have fewer than 10 employees, and 90% have fewer than 20.

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We need to be intentional about building community, providing resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses, and maintaining our local community. Business plays a role here; forming and shaping the identity of a community might be one of the biggest roles of small businesses. Their participation in the community can help reflect an important history that is crucial. Being a substantial presence within the local community can shape the character of the people as well, directly influencing tourism in the area as well as connecting with everyday individuals passing through.

Not only are local businesses important for creating a culture for the community, but they also build connections and relationships with the people. Owners welcome friendly unfamiliar faces regularly but are always pleased when they see familiar and returning customers. There’s a small-town feeling that arises when anyone walks into a local business — the staff is polite, the owner is present and friendly, and customers feel welcome. When you get to know small businesses, you’ll find a variety of nice gestures and wonderful surprises — the baker slips you a discount on your coffee, the bookseller knows your favorite genre, and the pet shop knows your pet’s name and food of choice.

That said, we have never had to compete for the best and brightest — but we do now. Ensuring Eagle County’s community vitality and economic health stay strong for years to come depends on it. Town and county strategic initiatives must support existing businesses and build a foundation to recruit new businesses and entrepreneurs that have the potential to support our local economy.

As we head into a new year, strengthening local businesses should be a front-of-mind goal. Helping businesses grow and be successful, thus creating good jobs for locals, drives a successful community and stimulates the economy.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at

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