Economy study begins

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The South Routt County Community Economic Assessment begins today with a tour of the area and continues through Friday, at which time community members are hoping to hear strategies for expanding the area's economy.

During the tour, a four-member assessment team will be shown around communities in South Routt County, including Oak Creek, Phippsburg, Stagecoach and Yampa. Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak and South Routt real estate agent Jane Stitt will lead the tour.

The assessment team is made up of Susan Blansett, a certified economic developer from Golden, Pattie Snidow of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Cathy Shipley, a field representative for the Department of Local Affairs, and John Galusha, a businessman from Pueblo.

The team will study economic conditions and potential for economic development in South Routt as part of the Colorado Community Assessment Program, an economic study sponsored by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

After the tour, Routt County commissioners will host a dinner for the assessment team at Dinty Moore's Pizza in Oak Creek.

Community leaders and representatives from businesses and major industries in South Routt, such as coal mining, power plants, ranches and the U.S. Forest Service, will give the team an overview of the area's economy.

On Thursday, the assessment team will take part in focus-group discussions at the South Routt Community Center in Oak Creek.

The discussions cover four topics: agriculture as a viable industry in South Routt; education as it relates to work-force development and training; government processes, permits, regulations and incentives as they relate to retaining and attracting business; and infrastructure, including transportation, utilities and telecommunications. The discussions will take place, one at a time in that order, every hour and a half beginning at 9 a.m.

Participants in each group will be asked to describe South Routt's challenges and strengths in each area, as well as projects that the area could accomplish in the next year and the next five to 20 years.

Stahoviak said there had been good response from the public about the focus groups. The smallest focus group to date, which is agriculture, has 12 community participants. The largest, which is infrastructure, has 30 participants, Stahoviak said.

"There still is time for people to sign up to come," she said.

Even if people don't sign up, they can still show up for the conversations.

At the end of the visit, the group of assessors will offer recommendations for how the region can grow economically in ways that its residents want. Using demographic data they already have collected about the area, along with their findings from the focus-group discussions and the tour, the assessors will present conclusions Friday.

"That's when the work will really begin for the communities in South Routt," Stahoviak said. "It will be our responsibility to take those recommendations and figure out what we're going to do with them."

The South Routt Community Economic Assessment will take place today through Friday, with Thursday's focus groups and Friday's presentation taking place at the South Routt Community Center in Oak Creek.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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