From the Chamber: A healthy, sustainable economy for the future |

From the Chamber: A healthy, sustainable economy for the future

Kara Stoller, John Bristol, Jason Lacy, Beth Melton and Cole Hewitt
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In case you haven’t noticed, over the last two years, our community’s economic development program has undergone a sea of change. It’s been redefined, reinvigorated and given new direction. It is now a highly collaborative, public-private partnership between Routt County, the city of Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Springs Chamber.  The three partners, along with the thirty-member Economic Development Council, are working together for the long-term health and sustainability of our regional economy up and down the entire Yampa Valley.

Looking at the big picture, we as a community must assess our economy and identify risks and exposure to local, regional, national and international changes happening across multiple industry sectors. By tracking those trends and then looking closely at our local industry sector mix, we can spot risks that could impact our community and then develop strategies to mitigate the risks and hedge against them. 

It’s similar to an investment portfolio manager looking at your investment mix and then working to diversify your investment portfolio towards more stable and up-and-coming areas. Economic development does the same by looking to diversify our local economy across industry sectors. We want to make sure that our eggs are not all in one basket, which can result in shocks for communities tied too closely to a single industry sector.  

Consider Detroit, or even some of Colorado’s single-industry towns, that lost businesses, tax base, schools, population and ultimately, their community as global markets and the local economy changed. Hindsight is always 20/20, but the foresight of communities and leadership to keep pushing ahead on economic diversification by supporting the development of new industry sectors in their community is always worthwhile.

Here in the Yampa Valley we have seen past efforts to diversify via thoughtful community investments. Our predecessors operated in an economy largely based off commodity prices, cattle and coal and supported sector diversification by developing the tourism and hospitality sectors, which then supported the expansion in the construction sector. And today, we need to continue our community’s thoughtful diversification efforts to minimize our exposure to economic shifts and keep the valley’s economy stable and balanced.  

That stability looks like a diversified mix of job opportunities, so that when one sector is up and the other is down, we can continue to thrive with minimal impacts on residents. It is job opportunities today and for the next generation, ideally with rising incomes and opportunity for social mobility. It means a more balanced and more sustainable future where our valley has a multitude of sectors that support our community and keep our economy healthy and sustainable for the long-term.

Over the last few years, we have embraced established economic development strategies supporting the development of key infrastructure such as broadband and transit options that facilitate commerce. We developed a formalized business retention and expansion program to retain and expand the businesses we have. 

We have done the research and development work to identify key sectors for expansion and are pushing for increased communitywide support for the following sectors: value-added agriculture including local food and beverage production, outdoor recreation products, creative industries and location neutral employees and businesses. Thoughtful support for these sectors means supporting and coordinating leading front-line partners or catalyzing the development of new groups where none exist to support the sector.  

It is through this work we seek to bend our valley’s trajectory towards a more diverse and sustainable economy that supports our economic well-being and quality of life.

This week’s From the Chamber column was a collaboration among Kara Stoller, John Bristol, Jason Lacy, Beth Melton and Cole Hewitt.

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