Economic summit planners look ahead

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— Organizers of Steamboat Springs' decade-old Economic Summit say they intend to continue adapting the program to make it relevant to area business people.

Last week's summit was hosted by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and the Steamboat Springs Economic Development Coun-

cil. The event drew 150 people from 110 businesses and organizations. As recently as 2004, 180 people attended. Forty-four businesses sponsored this year's event.

Economic Development Council Chairman Bob Larson has been helping to put together the program for two years and attending it for even longer.

"I do remember that in 2002 it seemed like a more crowded room," Larson said. "My goal for this year was to achieve higher attendance than in previous years."

This year's main speakers included Barbara Wold, who talked about 20 emerging retail trends. Will Seccombe urged attendees to adapt rapidly to the way new communication technology is allowing consumers to drive marketing strategies.

Past summits introduced new initiatives -- economic gardening and cultural and heritage tourism -- to the business community. Those programs have been well-received, he said, but it's difficult to measure the economic impact in terms of jobs created and sales tax receipts generated.

"We tried to get more nuts and bolts in this year's program with marketing and tech advice," Larson said. "We tried to ask ourselves, 'What are we going to present to our customers that they can take away today?'"

Larson said the Economic Development Council condensed this year's program from a day and a half to one day. At the same time, organizers deliberately planned more open time between seminars to allow business owners to network among themselves.

Larson acknowledged that the back-to-back scheduling of a Main Street Steamboat Springs seminar May 24 with the Economic Summit on May 25 might have detracted from attendance.

"That's a tall order," Larson said. "We'll learn from that and plan to coordinate for next year. We'll take it as an opportunity to learn."

Larson said he hopes to see more of the business community's decision makers at next year's summit.

"We need to do a better job of marketing this event and of convincing people to encourage their friends to attend," he said.

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205,

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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