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Economic summit to focus on plight of mountain towns

— Mountain towns all have their own peculiarities, but often they have the same economic and social challenges in common. Economic Summit 2002 on May 29-30 at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort and Conference Center will attempt to draw on the expertise of other mountain towns to shed light on Steamboat Springs’ efforts to strengthen its economic vitality.
“We wanted to offer a program that would have a sustainable impact in Steamboat Springs,” Delissa Laterzo said. “Something that impacts the life of everybody here.”
Laterzo chairs the marketing committee of the Leadership Steamboat Class of 2001-2002. Leadership Steamboat has undertaken programming for this year’s Economic Summit.
The conference kicks off with a presentation by Amy Horne, who is the research director of the Sierra Business Council. Laterzo said Horne will talk about ways in which rural communities have capitalized on their location, landscape, livability and their entrepreneurial spirit to become “the best place to raise a family and own a business.”
Horne will reveal her principles of “Investing for Prosperity,” which are designed to guide rural communities in charting their own path to prosperity. They are organized around four simple strategies: capitalizing on existing assets, cultivating innovation and economic diversity, creating long-term social capital and catalyzing community partnerships.
Finding investments that meet these strategies requires both patience and discrimination, Horne acknowledges, but she is prepared to offer real-life success stories that prove it can be done.
An example is a business owner who decided to buy and remodel a vacant downtown building, rather than building a new facility on previously undeveloped ground. The business owner:
n Built social capital by enhancing the vitality of the downtown area.
n Built natural capital by not creating sprawl and reducing traffic.
n And built financial capital by utilizing a previously under-performing physical asset.
Horne is just one of a cast of almost 10 out-of-town speakers being brought in to sit on panels with local business people. As a group, they’ll look at ways for Steamboat to diversify and stabilize its economy Laterzo said.
“We began working on the program right after Sept. 11,” Laterzo said. “We suddenly realized how vulnerable our economy is to any impact of that nature, and how dependent we are on tourism.”
Other speakers who will contribute to the Economic Summit include:
n Delore Zimmerman, founder and CEO of Praxis, a community and enterprise development firm. The projects undertaken by Zimmerman’s company include cooperating with the Wal-Mart Innovation Network, to develop MarketGateway, Inc., a business-to-business e-commerce company that connects small and medium-sized enterprises with large and medium-sized buying organizations.
n Former Steamboat and Jackson, Wyo., chamber executive Bill Malone, now the chamber executive in Park City, Utah, will contrast various resort towns.
n Kevin Manweiler, a consultant to NC Telecom, will sit on a panel examining the state of technology infrastructure in the Yampa Valley.
n Christian Gibbons, who runs the New Economy Project in Littleton, will focus on nurturing the valley’s homegrown companies in a talk on Economic Gardening.
n Bob Lee, director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development will wind up the conference. Among the branches of state government Lee oversees is the Colorado Tourism Office.


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