13 April 2011: Barriers to economic growth are confronted

Barriers to economic growth are confronted

On March 31, 40 community members gathered at the Georgetown Community Center to brainstorm goals to submit to Governor Hickenlooper as part of his “statewide conversation about economic development,” dubbed the “Bottom Up Economic Plan Initiative.”

According to the release, the governor “is asking for residents across the State, county by county, to share their stories, challenges, and strengths by developing a strategic economic development plan for their county.”

“If every community, county, and small business can create ways to improve the economy within their areas,” said Clear Creek Economic Development Corp. President Peggy Stokstad, who is spearheading the effort in Clear Creek, “the rationale is it can have a trickle up effect.”

Each of the 64 counties is asked to submit a list of five economic development priorities by April 30. By May 15 the governor’s task force will consolidate them into 14 Planning and Management Regions. Clear Creek is part of Region 3, which includes the Denver metro area.

“Governor Hickenlooper is taking a grassroots approach to economic development in the state,” said Commissioner Tim Mauck. “I think it is a unique approach to crafting a statewide economic plan that may be more tailored to our strengths than a typical top-down approach to the economy.”

The group listed barriers to economic growth in the county. Making the list were lack of affordable housing, thinking too small, resistance to change and progress, apathy by many residents, and a lack of a sense of urgency. Another was how CCC is too often seen by the rest of Colorado.

“Not enough statewide officials take note of Clear Creek,” noted Mauck, “which gets at the frustration many feel about the perception of CCC by officials and travelers.”

Ed Rapp of the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation pointed out CCC is at the crossroads of the state, and with it being strategically situated come assets.

Accordingly, the group decided on five top goals: marketing plan; renewable energy and natural resources; I-70 survival plan; destination activities, including recreation and other tourist interests; and community support and structure that includes workforce housing, access to health care, continuing education, and intra-county transportation.

On the issue of I-70, Idaho Springs Mayor Jack Morgan said I-70 questions interfere with new investors.

“Until we solve the I-70 problem,” he averred, “these other goals won’t be available.”

Commissioner Kevin O’Malley stated he believes the plan for a third eastbound bore at the Twin Tunnels and flattening of the curves will become reality relatively soon.

“The Twin Tunnels project is a good example of how we can collaborate with CDOT and our neighboring communities to begin the long process of improving transportation into and through the County,” said O’Malley.

He added the way the project has been conceived will also minimize the construction impacts on our residents and businesses.

“In a best case scenario, the construction phase of the project will be one or two construction seasons,” with preliminary design and environmental work taking about 18 months once funding is approved.

Though the project is still a couple of years away, O’Malley is “confident it will happen and will prove to be a good start in addressing the highway component of our transportation solution.”

The group agreed to meet once again to review its work before submitting it to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT).

After the recent years of economic downturn, participants were focused and seemed generally upbeat about local and state economic renewal but follow-through was a concern.

“The regional plans that emerge will be much more likely to be implemented because of that local involvement,” said O’Malley.

That is the hope and goal.

For more information, contact CCEDC Peggy Stokstad at 303-569-2133 or visit the OEDIT website at www.advancecolorado.com where you can give feedback vis-à-vis a survey.

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