OURAY COUNTY – Ouray County has always attracted creative people. Now a committee of local artists and business people hopes to establish an official Creative District here.
The concept was put forth by the State of Colorado as part of the governor’s Bottom Up economic development planning. If Ouray is officially designated a Creative District, the region could be qualified to receive certain financial resources and attract additional investment.
The local committee, chaired by Ridgway sculptor Michael McCullough, has been meeting for months and has completed preliminary analysis of the impact creative industries have on the total economy in the county. They’ve concluded that Ouray County is well suited to compete in this state initiative.
All Colorado counties have been invited to designate a Creative District. The District must include existing economic activity provided by various types of visual and performance arts as well as businesses categorized as 'creative industries,' all located within a contiguous area. It should also include spaces available for development by businesses attracted by the existence of other successful creative industries.
From the applications received for designation, the Colorado Department of Economic Development and International Trade will select two districts to receive initial grant money, as well as specialized consultants to create a process by which other communities can capitalize on their own Creative Districts.
McCullough and the committee have pointed out that a significant proportion of economic activity in Ouray County is generated by arts and creative enterprises. And the ripple effect they provide to other businesses is significant. "Anyone who has lived here for a few years has been able to see the increased number of artists, writers, performers, knowledge-industry professionals, artisans, and arts education professionals among our year round and seasonal population,” McCullough said. “New businesses within this category have opened and are operating successfully also."
Creative industries include, but are not limited to, breweries, bakeries, graphic arts, performance venues, screen printing, materials and supplies for arts professionals and hair salons, as well as architects and engineers, software designers, graphic artists, designers, and those who retail the products produced by the arts community. Other businesses provide support services for these, creating a ripple effect through the economy of an area. "Obviously, we should learn how to organize and capitalize on this growth industry in our county," McCullough noted.
The committee was initially formed by the County Bottom Up Economic Development process earlier this year, and led by BOCC member Lynn Padgett. The Creative District effort will be led by representatives of arts-related organizations and businesses as well as elected officials of Ridgway, Ouray, and Ouray County. Current committee members include John Clark, Susie Opdahl, Rick Weaver, Dee Williams, Greg Fowler, Caroline and Kevin Lescroart, and Joyce Linn.