Ideas abound at discussion on 'diversity'

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— If the first step to diversifying the tourism-dominated local economy is coming up with plenty of ideas, Steamboat Springs took a big stride forward at the Economic Summit.

What was not clear after the brainstorming session June 2 was what the next step will be.

To increase job opportunities for young people, participants discussed using Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs as a center for advanced telecommunications and technical training.

During the second day of the Economic Summit, a group of residents gathered to discuss the economic future of Steamboat Springs and came up with a variety of the strategies to diversify the economy.

The ideas included recruiting new businesses to the area, improving communications infrastructure, promoting convention businesses and year-round foreign tourism, considering a multiuse or recreation center, developing advanced education programs for technical training, enlarging Yampa Valley Regional Airport, attracting entrepreneurs and providing affordable commercial real estate for new and current businesses.

Independent business owners like David Scully of Chase Oriental Rug Co. talked about the high costs of bringing imported goods from Denver. Chase said having goods shipped here from overseas is considerably cheaper than getting them from Denver to Steamboat. Improving transportation options is one way to remove that kind of barrier to business, attendees said.

Concern also was expressed regarding a lack of high-speed Internet access in northwest Colorado.

High-speed access, upon which local businesses and entrepreneurs will depend for revenue and success, will not be provided by U S West for at least another 24 months, said SpringSips owner Stephanie Reineke. The access problem will be presented to the Economic Development Council and concerned residents will be asked to lobby U S West and state representatives to push the need for telecommunications to the top of local priority lists, participants decided.

To increase job opportunities for young people jobs that won't be entirely dependent upon the tourist industry participants discussed using Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs as a center for advanced telecommunications and technical training.

Business broker Peter Remy suggested building a technical training center to nurture a digital economy at the blue-collar level something along the lines of the Denver Technical Institute.

Some residents, like Tom William of Colorado Group Realty, believe the town is not making maximum use of its space.

There are hundreds of empty homes and beds, he noted, adding that the chamber, if it acted as more of a convention bureau, might find ways for the extra space to be used profitably.

To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4205 or e-mail bnadzam@amigo.net

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