Following welcoming remarks to the luncheon attendees and a general outline on PUMA’s plans for their initial visit, Prowers County Commissioner, Ron Cook, turned the proceedings over to Anna Jones, VP of Progressive Urban Management Associates and Senior Associate Erika Heller. This was the introductory meeting on February 29th with various community leaders where PUMA provided a general outline of their economic assessment task.
Jones said PUMA will follow three stages of study and develop organizational and financial strategies to leverage funds into business and job development for the communities in Prowers County. “We’ll develop a county marketing profile for you and identify strengths and gaps in your community as well as develop some new ideas which may not have been considered before. Those in attendance at the meeting in the County Annex included representatives from economic and municipal groups including Wiley, Holly and Granada as well as the Lamar City Council and Prowers County representatives, PCDI, Southeast Health Group, Lamar Community College, Prowers Medical Center, Healthy Places, SECED, Canyons & Plains and the Prowers Lodging Tax Panel.
The final half hour consisted of a give and take regarding the type of study that would be developed for the county and any specific issues the PUMA representatives should pay heed to: These ranged from making full use of past economic assessments such as one conducted several years ago for the city’s industrial park and potential economic development at the Lamar Municipal Airport. Another question focused on the timeline of the study, how far into the future would the study carry the community for recommendations. Jones answered about five years in general, as shifts or trends in the economy would play a role. She added that focusing on a potential development such as wind power would come with a set of alternatives the community could follow instead of just one specific guideline. “That way,” she explained, “You have options that allow you to select actions based on future situations instead of being held to one course of action. We also want to develop some early wins, say about within an 18 month span that will help maintain forward momentum to translate ideas into actions that can foster results,” she stated.
Rick Robbins, President of PCDI, discussed some county-wide obstacles such as an upside down housing market in the area. “It’s hard to get people to build a house for $100,000 when in a few months it may be worth about $60-$70,000,” he said. “It’s ironic that it costs less to build a house along the Front Range and have it worth more, and it costs more to have it built here and have it be worth less.” Robbins said a turnaround is needed on the county’s housing availability to help bring in job development. He added it is hard to get a housing loan from a bank unless you have a healthy down payment ready.
Others topics included a need for diversification of businesses and people, population stability and long term business retention for existing retailers or attracting an industry that fits the nature of the area. County Assessor, Andy Wyatt recommended business development that won’t require a heavy use of water as it’s becoming a scarcer commodity. Other suggestions included developing low-cost incentives to compete against fully-funded economic development groups such as PEDCO in Pueblo. LCC President, John Marrin suggested attracting a Front Range operation which could employ local residents without a need to be on-site. Age gaps were addressed, stressing a need to extend an invitation to a local younger generation to become involved in the county, which would create a personal buy-in on the future of their community.
Following the meeting, PUMA representatives and local leaders were given a tour of Wiley and a discussion of local economic developments, as well as an afternoon tour of Colorado Mills before concluding the first day of their visit. The Tuesday itinerary included a 7am breakfast talk with visits planned for Holly, Hartman, Bristol and Granada. The PUMA representatives held meetings with town officials as well as a tour of Gateway Products in Holly, the Hartman post office, Camp Amache and a final meeting with officials at the Granada Town Complex.
By Russ Baldwin
Filed Under: Business • City • Commissioners • community • County • Economy • Employment • Featured • Granada • Holly • Hot Topics • Lamar • Prowers County • Tourism • Transportation • Utilities • Wiley
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