Economic Summit to tackle key issues

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— Noreen Moore will be disappointed if the only people who turn out for this week's Economic Summit 2003 are businessmen and businesswomen.

"This program is for everyone," Moore said. "The real thrust is to provide economic education to citizens so that when we participate with elected officials, we have more knowledge. So often we react to things on a visceral level.

"I'd feel so good at the end of the day if people say, 'Huh. I didn't think of that before.'"

As the Chamber Resort Association's business resource director, Moore had a hand in assembling the program for the summit, which this year is subtitled "Community Character and Regional Prosperity."

Lt. Gov. Jane Norton is the headliner at the opening evening conference Wednesday with a talk about the "State of the State."

Moore has asked Norton to answer the question: "Is the current budget crisis an impediment or an opportunity for more regional collaborative efforts?"

The conference actually begins at 4:10 p.m. with Moore moderating a panel of local government officials from all over Northwest Colorado. They'll gauge the level of collaboration in the valley.

The conference begins in earnest at 8:30 a.m. Thursday with Don Rypkema. He is expected to explain why in the 21st Century, communities will need to set themselves apart from other towns their size based on qualitative as well as quantitative characteristics in order to be economically competitive.

Moore has set a fast pace for the program -- some talks will last only 20 minutes, and few will go beyond 30 minutes.

Beginning at 9:30 a.m., Ellen Hoj of the Regional Affordable Living Foundation will lead a panel of experts who will explore the importance of "Main Street" to local communities.

Lyman Orton of Steamboat Springs and the Vermont Country Store will discuss the importance of preserving a traditional Main Street where local business owners are far more likely to recycle money in the local economy than are branches of national chains.

Julie Ann Woods, community development director of Aspen, will talk about her city's efforts to retain its place as a premier resort community. Garry Baker, senior planner in Montrose, will talk about how his city has embraced quality big box development while assisting downtown businesses. Frank Gray, an expert in urban redevelopment planning and management will give a big city perspective.

During the noon luncheon, Scott Ford of the Small Business Development Center at Colorado Mountain College, together with Deb Alpe of CSU Extension, will dig into the numbers in the recently released consumer preference survey.

Afternoon speakers include Chris Gibbons of the city of Littleton, who co-authored the concept of "economic gardening" as a means to nurture local business.

Bill Siegel of Longwoods International will examine the rise and fall of tourism in Colorado.

Andy Wirth of the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. will reveal the latest chapter in Northwest Colorado's relationship with the airline industry. Ford and Audrey Danner will reveal the truth about the local economy and Bob Larson of the Chamber's Economic Development Council will wind things up by offering participants a chance to relax with a glass of wine and a wide open discussion of the issues.

Moore said she believes people in Northwest Colorado may need to open themselves up to the possibility of changing economic and retail landscapes, and discover how to make them work to their advantage. In some cities, she said, national chains are opening up three-story retail operations on traditional main streets, and mom and pops are prospering as a result.

"Economy should not be a dirty word," Moore said. "We want to offer an opportunity for people to think differently and be more creative, and therefore more effective. We also need to laugh about ourselves and move forward."

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