PCDI Focus on Housing Market, Proactive Business Viewpoint



Adequate housing has been a key factor in the list of economic development priorities in Prowers County. The need for construction of higher priced housing to match potential demand was discussed by the Prowers County Development Incorporated board during their monthly meeting on August 25. Interim Director, George Gotto, recapped a conversation initiated by a woman who was seeking a house in town in the $200K to $250K range. “She was just driving around the community, getting an idea of what was for sale in our various neighborhoods, probably with the intention of relocating her family here,” he explained. “We have lots of houses available, but I don’t believe there’s anything like that on the market and that style of house doesn’t really exist in town,” he said.

Gotto said most of the homes in town were built in the 1950s or 60s and are in the mid to low price range, from $60K to $90K and offer a standard, two-bedroom, one bathroom feature with 12 by 12 foot rooms and there’s little mainstream demand for that style house. Gotto told the board, “We have a Catch 22 situation where it’s hard to invest in speculative homes at that higher price range and style if they won’t sell in our market, but if they’re not available for those families that do want them; they’ll look at another town in which to live.” The interim director said several neighboring states have incentive packages such as free land for developers in which some acreage is given outright, or with some tax incentives, when a business moves to town and hires five or ten or fifteen employees.  “We have to be able to think out of the box on how we can attract developers to our community,” he added.

Gotto said he’s been in touch with Luis Benitez, the newly appointed Director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation about potential business development in the county. Gotto remarked at last month’s board meeting, that new opportunities could open up in the recreation field, driven by the increased water supply at John Martin Reservoir and other lakes in our vicinity. He said, “We’re meeting next month to discuss camping, sporting goods, guided water sports, outfitting and land leasing which will be key to increasing outdoor recreation in southeast Colorado.” A press release describing Benitez’s appointment to the new position highlighted the economic impact associated with outdoor recreation. “The office will support the state’s influential outdoor recreation industry. The Outdoor Industry Association in Boulder said outdoor recreation in Colorado supports 125,000 workers who earn $4.2 billion. The industry stirs $13.2 billion in annual consumer spending, generating $994 million in local and state taxes.”

Gotto’s talks with area bankers have shown a concern about developing infrastructure investments such as a year-round, indoor swimming pool. There’s an interest in such a facility, but financing will be an issue. He remarked that a drive for a new pool was on the table about 20 years ago with cost options ranging from $2M to $6M, but despite the talk about the economic and health benefits, the tax initiative needed to fund the venture died by a large margin at the polls. “Perhaps the county and the city could investigate the chance of starting a new discussion as the demand is still here,” he stated. Gotto said one option could be a mid-point location, in the vicinity of Granada, to attract users from around the county, but Lamar would probably be the location, given its population base.

Board members reviewed the recent Aerospace/Jobs related seminar held in Lamar last week. Members said they would have liked to have seen a larger response from financial institutions and manufacturers for the session as they are the primary businesses that could profit from and help enhance rural job development in that wide-spread industry throughout the state. The problem of a time lag between learning of opportunities and capitalizing on them was recognized. Gotto explained, “Anything I work on or the prior director worked on won’t be done in the next three to five years. We can talk to manufacturers and sell them on a local idea, but they won’t be doing anything for the next two or three years down the road. The changes won’t be immediate.” County Commissioner, Ron Cook, agreed with that reality, stating, “We are talking about five to ten years in the future and who in this town can afford to wait that long to build something. We need to be looking at more immediate prospects which can keep our young people here and develop jobs. The aerospace development is more of a shot in the dark.” LCC President, John Marrin, offered the suggestion that although initiating design models can take up to five years, “There are some jobs available that can be done from a distance that can be done right now. It’s worth a look to see if there are business openings that can be done on a local level.”

By Russ Baldwin


Filed Under: AgricultureBusinessCommissionerscommunityCountyEconomyEmploymentEnergyFeaturedGranadaLamarProwers CountyRecreationTourismTransportationYouth


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