April 13, 2011
A broad group of business and government leaders is putting the final touches on a regional economic development plan that is due to Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday.
Shortly after taking office in January, Hickenlooper asked all 64 counties in the state to submit ideas to help stimulate the economy and create jobs in their area.
“What we’re doing is an economic development initiative starting from a grassroots level and trying to build, from the bottom up, good ideas and suggestions on what the state can do to support local economies,” said Dwayne Romero, director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, which is spearheading the initiative along with the governor’s office.
Known as the Bottom-Up Economic Development Plan Initiative, the effort has involved pooling ideas from El Paso County’s eight municipalities, from Monument to Fountain and Green Mountain Falls to Ramah, said El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark. “The hard part has been taking all of the details and paring them down to broad-based initiatives,” she said.
The group used existing economic development plans from the county and its towns and cities, as well as input from two public meetings that drew hundreds of participants, to narrow the field to five priorities to hand over to the governor’s office.
Local colleges and universities, chambers of commerce, the tourism industry, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp., the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, the U.S. Olympic Training Center and others also participated.
“This is a great idea because it pulls the region together and gets everybody in one room talking about what they have in common and how they can support the economy,” said Lisa Cochrun, economic development director for the city of Fountain.
The group identified these categories as economic development priorities for El Paso County:
• Business development, including small business.
• The military.
• Health, sports and fitness.
• Information and technology.
The plan also includes strategies for accomplishing the goals, who should be involved, what resources are needed, how the state could contribute and barriers that hinder economic development, Clark said.
All counties are on track to meet Friday’s deadline, said Matt Cheroutes, spokesman for the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
Over the next few weeks, the initiative team, consisting of several state agencies and Colorado State University’s Office of Engagement and Extension, will host 14 regional meetings to review the counties’ statements and draft final priorities and barriers. By May 15, each county team will review and approve the finalized versions.
The state’s comprehensive plan will be completed July 1, Cheroutes said.
Not only will counties be able to help shape the state’s direction and have more interaction with state offices, but they also will have a customized plan to follow at the county level, he said.
Clark said she hopes the process improves job growth and retention, and benefits elements of communities that support economic development, such as roadways and air travel.
“We’re definitely looking at things the state can help us with, not necessarily money, but things like support for creating a well-educated workforce and implementing a comprehensive tourism marketing strategy to increase visitation to the region,” she said.
TO HAVE A SAY
Anyone interested in giving input on the governor’s economic development initiative can fill out an online survey here.
Comments also can be left at www.advancecolorado.com. (Click on “Bottom-Up.”)