MONTROSE – The Montrose community already has the key components – a community foundation, leadership program and passionate entrepreneurs – to make the HomeTown Competitiveness Model work as a citywide framework to drive and sustain economic opportunities, according to a small informal committee of community leaders.
Now, that committee is getting a read for what the community thinks about the economic development strategy.
About 80 people, from local governmental agencies, health care, charitable organizations and businesses, gathered June 14 to learn more about the HomeTown Competitiveness Model.
"I really like the people focus (of the model) because I think it is one of the strengths of the community," said Melanie Hall, director of the Montrose Community Foundation.
Hall is part of the small committee that has been researching the model, which was first brought to the community's attention by City Manager Bill Bell when he moved to Montrose last summer.
Bell recognized that Montrose did not have a citywide effort that looked at all the elements he believed were important for a unified approach to economic development. He had seen the HomeTown Competitiveness Model administered successfully in Nebraska cities where he worked, including Grant. He also has utilized rough versions of the program while working in communities in Wisconsin, he said.
"It's a good way to talk about all the good things the community is doing," he said.
Bell said Montrose's efforts are working in different directions and not communicating. By bringing those efforts together, a common goal can be met. But to do that, a community goal needs to be established and people must know what it is and all work toward it.
"(This model) is all about building relationships and bringing people together," he said.
The HomeTown Competitiveness Model builds on local resources that are already in place, and organizes efforts around four pillars: leadership, entrepreneurship, youth engagement and philanthropy.
"I've been here for 20 years and have not seen a better comprehensive program that pulls together all the various areas," said Tricia Joy, director of operations at Hampton Inn Montrose. "I think the model is so simple and yet, it allows us to reduce the options on the table and keep them in perspective."
Craig Schroeder, director of youth engagement for the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, which was one of the organizations that created the model, outlined the pillars of the program for the community.
The model is not about a community competing with neighboring communities – it's about competing in a global economy, he said. And it's a framework – not a grant-subsidized program with specific rules and criteria – that adds value to what a community is already doing.
The model addresses critical issues that every community faces, such the migration of youth away from their hometown, the loss of farms, industries and small businesses, the erosion of the leadership capacity, and generational wealth transferring away from the area.
"For me, the direct and workable strategies to revitalize and enhance leadership knowledge and skills was the most relevant 'pillar' of the HTC presentation," said Doug Casebier, owner and operator of the Hampton Inn. "The key to creating and retaining jobs and wealth in our community is our potential to effectively streamline collaboration between our various economic development entities to drive entrepreneurship."
The community – in an almost isolated capacity – is addressing some of these issues, but this framework could bring those efforts together, Bell said.
Hall said philanthropy is going on now, "But I think there is tremendous potential to grow that in our community."
A separate effort, yet one that could help move forward the HomeTown Competitiveness Model in Montrose, is under way to identify exactly what that potential could be.
The Montrose Community Foundation teamed up with the Telluride Foundation to administer a study on the wealth of the Western Slope.
"The study will help us map our assets, where wealth is concentrated and how much of our wealth leaves the local communities," Hall said.
The study also will help the foundations decide if they are maximizing the giving potential and helping donors minimize their tax consequences to provide a more impartial and substantial endowment.
At last week's presentation, Schroeder collected feedback and surveys from participants. Bell said that information will be reviewed by the committee, which will then determine the next step.
Because Bell is familiar with the model, much of its strategies can be introduced to the community without help from the HomeTown Competitiveness Model team out of Nebraska, saving the community money. But, he said, if the consensus is to move forward with the model there may be some expenses to train a task force that would administer it throughout the community.
"I don't want it to be a city project, but a community project, and we have to evaluate the community's response to that," Bell said.