Governor, City Council Members Discuss Local/Regional Economic Growth

Governor Hickenlooper at Lamar SOS Center

Governor Hickenlooper at Lamar SOS Center

Governor Hickenlooper took a working lunch break at the Lamar SOS Center this past Tuesday, September 21, during a swing through portions of southeast Colorado. The governor highlighted the efforts made by residents and staff at the Fort Lyon Residential Supportive Center in Las Animas on their one year anniversary.  He also reviewed water issues in Prowers County and discussed economic growth potential with members of the Lamar City Council.

City Administrator John Sutherland and Councilmen Oscar Riley and Ron Cook had an informal discussion about economic progress in Lamar…some advances and some concerns. The fluctuating employment numbers were discussed along with areas in which retail stores can be opened to help develop the local business climate.  “We’ve been reviewing the possibilities of developing some tax incentives for some smaller towns to help people get started in retail ventures,” the governor told the councilmen.  Riley said it’s unfortunate that this corner of the state is overlooked until we do something special.

On that note, the governor said Lamar and La Junta received some statewide recognition through last year’s Pedal the Plains event when close to 1,100 bicycle riders rode a 100 mile trek through this region. “I’d like to see those numbers grow to 5,000,” said Hickenlooper who said he attended the recent Pedal event around Wiggins and Fort Morgan.  “The race cycles to various parts of the state about every five years, so this portion of Colorado will see more awareness,” he added.

Sutherland said a recent economic analysis of the community provided details of uncapped economic sources. “We have retail leakage of around $83M a year and our retail market is estimated at $153M.  We have to stop that from heading to La Junta or Garden City or through online sales.  We have to determine a way to change the way retailers approach their market.  My theory is everybody is pitching their sales at a Wal-Mart level and below and we’re observed as a poor community.  We can’t advance our community that way.”

On related regional business development, this reporter has been in contact with Ryan Stevens, Executive Director for Economic Development for La Junta who confirmed the former Deen’s Pickle Plant, the Old Bay Valley Facility in La Junta has been sold to a Denver based company and a portion of the plant will be dedicated to a production brewery. It will take from between six to twelve months before operations at the plant begin.

In an earlier interview with the Tribune Democrat, Stevens said, “The old Bay Valley facility has long been a catalyst for La Junta and the rest of the Arkansas Valley.  With new ownership, I know that it will once again become a catalyst to economic activity.  I have been working with the purchasers since May and I know they will be a great community partner and I look forward to working with them long into the future.”

Sutherland told the governor the city council has been discussing using available Urban Redevelopment Authority funds for downtown appearance improvements including hiring an architect to help improve the recently purchased property on East Beech Street across from the Lamar Chamber of Commerce, and development of a community pocket park on South Main Street.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: AgricultureBusinessChamber/Local BusinesscommunityEconomyFeaturedHot TopicsLamarProwers County

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