|1/17/2013||Rural Development expert meets local civic leaders|
Colorado’s rural areas must keep on top of the economic game
About a dozen local folks involved in some type of local community/economic development efforts gathered Monday night to hear what an expert had to say on the matter.
That expert was Clarke Becker, Executive Director of the Colorado Rural Development Council (CRDC). The CRDC partners with local, state and federal agencies and organizations to deal with issues relating to community development and infrastructure, health care and telecommunications. The CRDC’s mission is to effectively prepare rural Coloradans for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
Inviting Becker to the table was the recently formed Custer County Community Development Corporation (CCCDC) whose board members are Charles Bogle, Dale Mullen, Dee Hoag, Brian Clince, Donna Hood, Robin Young and Nora Drenner.
In attendance were representatives from the Custer County Chamber of Commerce, county tourism board, Cliffs Action Revitalization Team, the towns of Silver Cliff and Westcliffe, county commissioners and CCCDC. They were Bogle, Hoag, Hood, Drenner, Cindy Howard, Kathy Reis, Kathy Seei, Joe Cascarelli, Larry Weber, Lynn and Sandra Attebery, Kit Shy and Allen Butler.
Clarke began by telling attendees that the future of Colorado is directly linked to the future of its rural areas which are home to 20 percent of the state’s total population.
As a result, said Becker, there is critical need for good working relationships between rural and urban interests.
“Colorado faces many challenges,” said Becker. “Those challenges include cost of living, health care, education, housing costs, infrastructure, land use, labor pool, elder care and youth migration following school.”
He also talked about the purpose of economic development. “Quality of life begins with a good job,” said Becker, “and that quality of life is largely determined by community wealth, both public and private.”
Becker continued, “A job is no longer just the roof over your head and the food on your table: it’s your health care, your kids’ education and your retirement.”
Additionally, Becker defined economic development as identifying the desired results and balancing the trade-offs; understanding that competition is real and aggressive; profitability supersedes quality of life; and it is important to think from the customer’s prospective.
Also, said Becker, economic development is learning what companies need and what the residents will support. “You have to support existing employers so they will stay and expand,” said Becker. “Also key is attracting new employers to expand and diversify the economic base and educate the community about the importance of the employers.”
Becker continued, “A community must provide an environment conductive to doing business, have a workforce that is job ready and available, and must have housing that is affordable for those working in the community.”
Also discussed were the reasons companies locate to a community. “The same things that attract new companies also keep existing companies at home, said Becker.
Those amenities include: labor and availability; tax and regulations; proximity to an airport and major university; quality of life issues; cost of doing business; adequate infrastructure capacity; incentives; and strong and stable political leadership.
The success a community achieves in helping to retain existing businesses and attracting new businesses, said Becker, is measured by the number and quality of new jobs; the increase in local tax revenues, diversification and the meeting of community goals.
Becker noted the economic impact of 3,500 new jobs in the Denver area was comparable to seven new jobs in Custer County.
Community Development was also defined. The three legged stool for community development, said Becker, is the business community, local government and the citizens. “The best leaders,” said Becker, “think beyond their experience and plan beyond their tenure.”
Becker concluded by saying in order to have success a community must have a can-do attitude, shape their vision, raise strong leaders, maintain local control, encourage an entrepreneurial approach, leverage all resources and build a brand. – Nora Drenner
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