PCDI Needs Funding for Big R Incentive Property

One of several buildings at Washington Street site

Funds allocated to the maintenance of the Big R, Washington Street offices and warehouse are almost depleted. The property, which has been for sale, was donated to Prowers County Development Incorporated as an incentive package by Big R when the local company relocated its headquarter staff to the Pueblo area several years ago. Property maintenance, utilities and insurance have claimed most of the $10,491 set aside at the beginning of 2012, with insurance claiming almost half the capital at $4,504 and utilities and maintenance are almost equal at around $2,800 for the year. PCDI board members spent most of their monthly meeting this past Tuesday, September 25, exploring a slim list of alternatives, turn off the lights and heat and hope for some funding to pay for insurance costs next March, or find a buyer or renter.

Suggestions included securing an operating loan from a lender against the profits of a future sale, discussing use of the offices on Washington Street by the Lamar Police Department Detectives, or moving PCDI’s downtown offices to Washington Street and realize lower overhead costs. Local realtor, Sharon Wilson of Randall Realty, has been showing the property locally as well as out-of-town prospects. “I’ve shown the property seven times,” she explained to board members this past Tuesday, but stated that interest to buy the site is heightened only if it were occupied by a business. Wilson told the board that clients want to be able to purchase the property if it can currently show a profit. Wilson said she would accompany PCDI Executive Director, Lisa Nolder, to speak with Lamar Police Chief Gary McCrea about the office’s potential use to the LPD. The detectives currently pay $750 a month for two offices about the same size as the main room of PCDI explained city council member, Skip Ruedeman, who said he’d like to attend the meeting as well. The office space at the site is around 5,800 square feet. The city council is beginning to plan for next year’s budget, and this would be the best time to explore moving those offices. Wilson said she would also contact one business interest from Denver to see their interest in the property if it were occupied. Board member Gene Millbrand suggested contacting the regional business lending agency, SECED, to inquire about a loan for operating funds.

Board members discussed the potential negative impact Eagle-Net Alliance could have on local broadband providers locally, and throughout the region. The company has stated its goal is to provide low-income and rural areas with high-speed internet. Eagle-Net, according to Nolder is receiving $100M in an ARRA funding grant to provide fiber optic cable and broadband wireless services to all 64 Colorado counties. Nolder and board members are fearful that this is a duplication of existing services in our area and provides this company with an uneven economic advantage against other suppliers. Nolder said that the EPA, which mandates an environmental impact statement for a proposal of this scale, hasn’t been contacted by Eagle-Net for clearance for development. She added that the project will not create any full-time jobs in the area. Eagle-Net has been invited to the October 17 SEBREA meeting at Otero Junior College, but has not indicated that they will appear to explain their goals and impact to the southeast Colorado region. It was noted by Nolder that two past representatives of economic development in southern Colorado, Darlene Scott and Alison Courtner of SCEDD, are currently working for Eagle-Net Alliance. Elected congressional Colorado officials have sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce asking to have the company’s plans put on hold pending their impact on current local providers.

Board member, and Lamar Community College President, John Marrin informed the board the college will seek a $1M grant for an entrepreneurship program from the Coffman Foundation, which provides national funding for economic development programs. The money would be used to fund pilot programs to help develop businesses that use hardware and software technology. Marrin said LCC is on a short list of three rural colleges that qualify for the grant funding. The college would need to find funding to help develop the program and will go through an interview process Thursday, September 27, for consideration. President Marrin said this new program can tie in to the college’s IT Academy they’ve been developing the past year. “We think this may be a great opportunity to grow our own, or have folks come in to the area that might have an interest of starting businesses where their service or their product uses IT technology,” he explained. He said he’d keep the PCDI board posted on developments. He added the college would know more about their status within 60 days.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: BusinesscommunityCountyEconomyFeaturedLamarPoliticsUtilities


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