S. Routt economic study in works

Area has been selected for Community Assessment Program

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The first steps toward making an economic study of South Routt County a success were taken by the study's steering committee, which met Thursday night in Oak Creek.

South Routt County has been selected to participate in the Colorado Community Assessment Program, an economic study sponsored by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

For three days in August, five private-sector business people and public officials will study conditions in the South Routt communities of Oak Creek, Stagecoach, Phippsburg, Yampa and Toponas and potential for economic development. At the end of their visit, the assessors will offer recommendations for how the region can grow economically in the ways its residents want.

Thursday, the steering committee made plans for the county tour and focus group conversations that will occur as part of the study.

Being selected to participate in the economic assessment program is a boon for South Routt, steering committee members said.

"It will give us some idea from kind of an objective, outside perspective of the areas we have in our community that we should capitalize on, and maybe of some new ways that we can enhance the economies of South Routt," said Nancy Stahoviak, a commissioner for Routt County and the community coordinator for the study. "To me, (the study) will allow us to really develop an overall economic vision for South Routt."

When the assessors first come Aug. 13, they will take a tour of the area. At Thursday's meeting, committee members chose Stahoviak to serve as the main tour guide. The committee also decided to have a few people available from each community help describe each area's background and provide history on the tour's stops.

The committee also learned about the topics for the focus group discussions and interviews that will take place Aug. 14. The focus groups are: government, which relates to processes that businesses have to go through, such as zoning and permits; infrastructure, which relates to utilities businesses need, such as electricity, water and transportation; and education, which relates to work force development and training.

There will be a fourth focus group discussion, which Stahoviak said will most likely be on agriculture because it is an important element of South Routt County's economy.

The public is invited to the focus groups.

Oak Creek business owner David Bonfiglio, who is serving on the committee with Stahoviak, also said that the focus groups play a key role in the assessment.

"The biggest part of the puzzle, on our part, is figuring out the focus groups and then getting good attendance because that is really what drives (the assessors') response," Bonfiglio said. "They rely on the feedback of the people."

The focus group discussions will take place on a Thursday, so people who want to attend might have to make prior arrangements to take off from work.

Stahoviak agreed that getting people involved in the focus groups will be crucial to the success of the assessment.

"It's just so critical for members of the community that will be around on Aug. 14 to come and participate in those focus groups," Stahoviak said. "The information that we get out of the assessment team will be only as good as the information we give them."

Stahoviak said that anyone interested in participating should contact her or Bonfiglio. She said she hopes to have at least 10 to 15 residents involved in each group.

After the assessors meet with the focus groups, they will draft a plan and come up with suggestions for economic development, which they will present on the morning of Friday, Aug. 15.

Overall, Thursday night's steering committee meeting was a good start to the process, Stahoviak said.

"It generated some good energy," she said.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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