Holly-Granada Forming Joint Economic Development Task Force

Holly - Granada Residents Attend REDI Grant Meeting

Holly – Granada Residents Attend REDI Grant Meeting


Holly and Granada decided to pursue an economic assessment study for both communities following a joint REDI Grant meeting in Granada this past Tuesday, March 3.  The initial meeting helped provide a broad overview of how primary and secondary dollars and jobs contribute to a community’s economy.  Each of the 40 participants took part in the discussion, offering suggestions on ways to improve the economies of both towns.

The discussion was led by Darcy Owens-Trask, the (REDI) Rural Economic Development Initiative Program Coordinator from (OEDIT) Office of Economic Development and International Trade.  Lee Merkel, Southeast Region Representative from the Department of Local Affairs provided information for the audience as well.  Tuesday’s meeting was initiated at a suggestion made late last year by Lance Benninghoff, the former Executive Director of Prowers County Development Incorporated.  Both towns were awarded the grants from the state REDI program.

Ideas from the audience were varied.  Holly Mayor, Brad Simon suggested a series of training workshops for business owners and prospective owners, providing them with guidelines for developing a commercial venture.  Dee Melgosa commented on making use of vacant buildings and developing a strong core for both towns where residents are united in their goals.  Randy Holmen’s comment focused on competitive salaries for rural teachers.  Prowers County Commissioner, Ron Cook, urged all parties to be less territorial when seeking economic opportunities.  Granada Mayor, C.W. DeForest, suggested the towns build on their current foundations instead of seeking outside business interests.  Jill Briggs asked what steps are available for finding funds to start a business.  One realtor stated that because of lowered property values, banks were less willing to approve loans which meant a start-up business required more un-front cash, often beyond the scope of a developer’s finances.  Stephanie Gonzales, the new SECED Executive Director, introduced herself to the gathering and stated that her office was created to provide new marketing ideas and small business loans for Prowers and other southeast Colorado counties.  There were other, similar comments, from developing jobs locally to help keep younger residents employed and from moving away, to concentrating on helping local businesses grow instead of trying to attract outside interests for economic development.

Trask took the audience through some basic economic steps, differentiating between primary and secondary dollars and jobs and how each can help a community.  Primary jobs and dollars flow into a community from sales of commodities and services and help develop secondary jobs which originate within a town.  Primary dollars can be re-spent several times before the money is spent outside a community and economic development should focus on the primary. She explained, “Higher cost items such as a mortgage, car payment, even utility bills are sent away from a town and not reinvested in the community.”  She suggested  the communities combine efforts and focus on one or two, ‘winable’ projects.  “These can be presented to funding institutions which can move you up on a list of economic providers in the future,” she explained, adding, “It’s a matter of success building on success and effort over time helps make a stronger economy for your town.” She said the next REDI Grant assessment will take place before the end of June and both towns should start now to combine their efforts.

Aaron Leiker, Holly schoolteacher and PCDI Vice-President, suggested forming a joint community task force to develop some ideas and prepare for a day-long assessment team from REDI in the near future. Leiker noted that he is a growing part of a ‘boomerang’ generation that is being witnessed on a national level in rural communities.  Trask developed that statement, explaining it’s a trend in which youngsters, having moved away for their careers, are starting to return to their origins in their later years.   Leiker reminded the gathering the postponed PCDI community meeting will be held Wednesday, March 11, at 7pm at the multi-purpose room at the Lamar Community Building.  All interested parties are invited.

By Russ Baldwin


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