Regional partnership aims to take leading role in economic development |

Regional partnership aims to take leading role in economic development

New nonprofit organization could have more opportunities to secure grant funding at federal, state levels

The new homepage for the Routt County Economic Development Partnership features tools that allows prospective businesses to find commercial space, study local talent and learn about the Yampa Valley.

Nearly $300,000 in state grant funding to several companies and startups based in Routt County hopes to eventually create more than 60 jobs that each pay at or above the average salary locally.

Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan said Monday, Aug. 8, that it is those kinds of statistics that can erode his skepticism concerning economic development.

“I’m skeptical, but I’m not close-minded,” Corrigan said.

The quip came during a presentation by John Bristol, executive director of the Routt County Economic Development Partnership, a new nonprofit that seeks to separate local economic development away from the Steamboat Springs Chamber, which has handled this in the past.

Bristol said it is the culmination of years of discussions about what economic development in the Yampa Valley should look like and how to make it sustainable long term.

“I think it’s been a community conversation for a long time about having a pure play economic development organization focused on primary businesses,” Bristol said. “Those are the businesses that are bringing new revenue, new capital into the county.”

Bristol said the key difference between the Chamber and this new organization is the tax status. The Chamber is a 501(c)6 organization, which is meant for advocacy, where this new partnership is a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

This difference opens the partnership up to a lot more state, federal and other grant funding opportunities, something the Chamber currently isn’t able to access, Bristol said.

“I think that a key piece there is partnership,” Bristol said. “We all need to be working together, across the county and municipalities.”

Right now the partnership includes Routt County, Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Yampa, the Yampa Valley Electric Association, Yampa Valley Community Foundation and the Chamber as investors, among others. Bristol said he hopes to eventually add Oak Creek to the mix as well.

The board for the partnership includes each of the local town, city or county managers, as well as some local businesses, and is still in the process of setting the organization up. Bristol said the application to become a 501(c)3 organization has been submitted to the IRS, and the approval process typically takes from six to eight months.

Still, the partnership recently hired its second staff member, who will focus on what Bristol called the cornerstone of economic development, “business retention and expansion.”

When it comes to recruiting new businesses, Bristol said he believes in taking a more reactive approach, which aligns with how the rest of Colorado approaches this.

“What Colorado offers is talent — really smart people — and second to that, quality of life,” Bristol said. “Attraction tends not to be a major priority.”

Bristol said he wants to make sure that if a business is looking at relocating or starting up in Routt County, it has a sort of “concierge” that understands what the business would need and whether the community could accommodate those needs.

This can be particularly important outside of Steamboat Springs in places like Hayden that are actively trying to attract new businesses, Bristol said. The partnership’s new website
has what Bristol called an attraction page that hopes to be the first step in the attraction process by identifying potential commercial spaces available locally.

The website also includes data about what industries are already here, demographics of the community and a high level look at what kind of talent lives in the Yampa Valley.

“This work that is being done is the big picture,” Bristol said. “It’s a long time coming but we’re making it happen.”

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