Friday’s event in Fruita was the second stop on Hickenlooper’s eight-city tour designed to be a grassroots, statewide effort to craft an economic plan based on feedback from meetings. All the meetings are open to the public, and Fruita’s meeting drew approximately 250 participants.
Attending the meeting from Ouray County were newly appointed Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce Development Coordinator Jennifer Mandaville, Ridgway Planning Commissioner and RACC Vice President Brian Scranton, and Ouray County Commissioner Lynn Padgett, who was a panel participant.
Padgett spoke on behalf of the county, sharing with the Governor the importance of tourism. Additionally, Padgett pointed out how difficult it is for a county as small as Ouray to have “shelf-ready” projects and to go after grants that “pop up with tight timelines.”
“A state-wide economic development plan that supports what locals know they need is very exciting. To have the State Tourism office appropriately funded and marketing Colorado beyond our state borders again is going to be very helpful,” said Padgett. “We need to form a core group of countywide stakeholder representatives, including the two Chambers, governments, businesses and schools, to look at the existing strategic plans within the county, look at recent plans of similar counties, and synthesize the key ideas into a strategic plan outline to present to our citizens and businesses for input.”
She added: “If we have an outline in early April, we could have a plan to present for incorporation into the statewide plan in early May.”
After the meeting, Scranton said, “The Governor is thinking differently. He's looking to communities around the state to play a part in his bottom-up strategy. So, rather than Denver dictate how Ouray County should approach economic development, we actually get a seat at the table."
“After listening to the Governor and the statements of the panel participants, I think it is exciting that so many folks understand the value of regional economic development; no town is an island,” Mandaville said.
Tourism took a front seat in the discussion; panel participants echoed one another’s support for an ongoing and strong tourism base as well as a basic need for broadband in rural communities.
The eight-city tour, including Edwards, Fruita, Durango, Del Norte, Pueblo, Cheyenne and Limon, wrapped up Monday in Loveland. The governor expects to take three-and-a-half months to complete the plan and will continue to call on participants as well as citizens of Colorado to bring the plan to fruition.