Steamboat Chamber’s proposal aims to rethink economic development and broaden impact


The Steamboat Springs Chamber is asking for more money this year to establish a new economic development organization that would try to expand this work so that it has impacts in Routt County, not just its inner city.

The proposal would create a House-affiliated organization called Routt County Economic Development Corp. This would be a step outside the House and would be created as a 501 (c) 3 organization, making it eligible for more state and federal grants.

“This is not our usual proposal that we put before you,” House CEO Kara Stoller told the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Monday. “The (Steamboat Springs) city council and county commissioners have told us there is a desire to have a stronger impact in this area.

For the past seven years, the city of Steamboat Springs and the county have donated money to the House for Economic Development, and Stoller said she was proud of what they did with the funding. Still, it can be difficult to forge relationships in other county municipalities when the House is so directly tied to Steamboat.

This has led to a growing desire, especially among county commissioners, to ensure that dollars make a difference across the county.

“We are working very hard to reach out to all municipalities and support them in the best possible way and build partnerships,” Stoller said. “But, at the end of the day, it’s John (Bristol) who comes in and introduces himself as the Director of Economic Development for the Steamboat Springs Chamber – that can be difficult.”

The new company would focus its efforts on creating a more unified front for economic development. He would seek to entice more local investors – other municipalities, tax districts like schools and fire districts, and potentially even local utilities – to buy, diversifying the company’s funding.

“Utilities are an area that typically invests in economic development because of their tax base,” Bristol said, adding that tax districts would be interested as the investment would theoretically increase their tax base.

In the past, funding for economic development was widely distributed in three ways between county, city, and chamber, with each entity making similar contributions over the past two years. This year, each group donated $ 69,000.

But the new proposal asks both the county and the city to invest $ 150,000, while the House contribution is less, at $ 42,500. Stoller said they would offset this smaller contribution by getting other investors to buy as well.

“It’s been a challenge for our small organization to make sure you reach the level that we have,” said Stoller. “But with that, you also see another line of investors. It would also be John and our team’s responsibility to bring them in. “

The company is said to have three full-time employees, including a general manager, a director of communications and a director of retention, expansion and industry.

Bristol said the goal for this first year would be to expand several of the economic development programs the House has put in place in recent years.

Among these programs, retaining and developing local businesses is a top priority, and Bristol said they can support this by better understanding what will allow them to increase their sales or hire more employees.

With this, Bristol said it is trying to strengthen specific local industry clusters identified as growing, such as value-added agriculture, outdoor recreation businesses like equipment makers, creative industries and neutral businesses. in terms of location.

“These four industry clusters are various opportunities where we can diversify our main job base, as well as diversify the number of companies that operate in our community,” Bristol said. “This is where we see that there is an opportunity for potential expansion and further diversification.”

When it comes to business attraction, which Bristol says is often what people think is the primary goal of economic development, it really depends on where the business is located in the county. For Steamboat, Bristol said they are focusing more on expansion as it is difficult for a new business to enter a community that already faces so many challenges around its workforce.

“If we proactively recruit into companies to say Steamboat it probably wouldn’t be the best idea as we have other issues,” Bristol said, escaping local housing and child care shortages. “In other parts of the valley, it would make a lot more sense to do business recruiting proactively.”

The commissioners did not vote but signaled to the House that they were generally in favor of the proposal, although some details – like the final amount of the county’s contribution – still need to be worked out.

Commissioner Tim Corrigan suggested that the House would likely not be able to put this organization in place by January 1, which means that the money the county has advanced could potentially be donated, with the understanding that it would not be fully utilized next year.

Corrigan also wanted to understand how the board of directors of this company would be formed and what the county’s contribution would be.

“I’m very supportive of this concept for sure,” said Commissioner Beth Melton, who said she spoke about this date when she became Commissioner in 2019. “I don’t know if that’s too much for us. to invest in an ongoing basis. I don’t think it’s too much investing to get things going.


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