Tourism Routt County’s top strength in economic development survey
Results also show health care, schools as top economic development strengths
April 2, 2011
The survey remains open and can be accessed at http://www.advancecolorado.com, through the "Bottom-Up" link.
Steamboat Springs — Initial results from a Routt County economic development survey show strong support for local schools and health care facilities, indicating that quality of life remains a primary driver of regional business growth.
The survey is part of Gov. John Hickenlooper's statewide Bottom-up Economic Development Plan Initiative, which is asking residents across the state for input on their county's economic strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, goals and more. The survey remains open and can be accessed online at http://www.advancecolorado.com. The initiative is asking each of Colorado's 64 counties to complete an economic development plan template by April 15.
"What we're really looking at here is kind of a last-push effort, before the survey closes, to get more people involved," said Scott Ford, outgoing director of the Routt County Economic Development Cooperative.
About 200 respondents had filled out Routt County's survey as of last week. All identified themselves on the survey as county residents. Fifty-two of the respondents said they were business owners, 36 said they were self-employed and 34 said they were involved in government.
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Not surprisingly, 184 respondents — more than 93 percent — listed tourism assets as one of the county's top five economic strengths, the largest percentage given to any county characteristic. "Attractive, livable communities" drew support from 131 respondents, or nearly 67 percent. Local health care facilities drew support from 124 respondents, more than 63 percent; and 104 people, or 53 percent, listed the quality of regional school systems as a primary economic strength.
Ford said he didn't see anything surprising in the survey results, but he did see support for the belief that Routt County offers more than tourism opportunities.
"Our strongest economic strategy is to focus on being a great place to live. I know that sounds simplistic, but really, there's a lot of value to that," Ford said. "We're very amenity-rich."
Karl Gills, CEO of Yampa Valley Medical Center, said that's a valuable message to spread.
"I have heard many Realtors and business leaders speak to the importance of health care when people are considering purchasing a home or relocating to the Yampa Valley," Gills said last week. "This view is reinforced by members of YVMC's Community Liaison Council, which meets quarterly to discuss local health care issues."
Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, said the Chamber also looks beyond tourism when attracting new businesses and residents.
"When we send out our On the Move guides, to people that are requesting relocation information, it's usually because they want to see what we have in the community," Evans Hall said. "They're very interested in the health care system here. They think that being very remote as we are, that we wouldn't really have the opportunity to have the health care in the valley that we do."
Ford said all of Routt County's community benefits, directly or indirectly, spring from a common source.
"We live in the house that tourism built," Ford said. "All the amenities … are a direct result of the visitor side of our economy."
With percentage of support from about 200 survey responders, who were asked to select five characteristics, from a list of 17, that "best characterize the greatest economic development strengths" of Routt County.
1. Tourism assets: 93.9
2. Attractive, livable community: 66.8
3. Local health care facilities: 63.3
4. Quality of the local school systems: 53.1
5. Raw materials/natural resources: 36.2
Survey responders asked to select five characteristics, from a list of 17, that represent "the most significant economic development weaknesses or deficiencies" of Routt County.
1. Access and proximity to markets: 73
2. Housing options: 65.8
3. Transportation network: 51
4. Technology/communications: 41.3
5. Local resources for capital/business loan funds, etc.: 39.8
— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com
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