A recent consumer preference survey contained useful information for retailers. The survey found that when it comes to buying cars, clothes, furniture, books, computers and other goods, residents shop somewhere other than Steamboat Springs more than half of the time. That's concerning for a town so heavily dependent on sales taxes.
For many, the survey is no surprise -- it simply confirms long-held suspicions.
The question is what to do about it.
How can local stores convince residents to spend more of their shopping dollars here? How do small, independent businesses compete with big box stores in terms of price and inventory? If they already are competitive, how do they fight the perception that they aren't? Are big box retailers the answer or part of the problem when it comes to losing local shopping dollars?
The answers to such questions aren't definitively clear. But they certainly are topics we should be talking about.
That's one of the purposes of Economic Summit 2003, which gets under way today and continues Thursday at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel and Conference Center.
During the summit, Scott Ford of the Small Business Development Center at Colorado Mountain College will talk about the consumer preference survey in detail and discuss with retailers how they can use the survey information to bolster their businesses.
Ford's presentation is just one of the items to be discussed during the two days. Among other presenters:
n Garry Baker, a planner from Montrose, will discuss how his city chose to embrace quality, big box retailers in an effort to become a retail shopping destination for nearby communities. The method, Baker said, has helped not only the major retailers but also locally owned stores.
n Lyman Orton of the Orton Foundation will discuss the importance of a traditional Main Street, with locally owned stores that turn money over in the community far more often than big box stores.
n And Robert Gibbs, president of The Gibbs Planning Group and an expert in retail planning, will discuss how to use smart planning to prevent sprawl.
Lt. Gov. Jane Norton is the featured speaker when the summit opens this afternoon. Don Rypkema of Place Economics will launch Thursday's sessions by discussing how communities can best position themselves to compete in the 21st century. Other topics Thursday include the status of the airline program in the Yampa Valley, economic gardening and travel and recreation trends.
These are difficult times for our economy. Our businesses are hurting. Local governments -- city, county and school districts -- are strapped for cash. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to wave to fix our problems.
But what we can do is discuss ideas and share information. Economic Summit 2003 provides a great venue to do just that.
Registration for the summit is available at the door. We encourage you to make time to participate in at least one of the summit sessions.