Economic development cooperative hashes out index

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— The Routt County Economic Development Cooperative is continuing its efforts to produce a livability index by the end of this year. The goal of the index is to provide a benchmark to measure the county year-to-year in a variety of categories.

When announced earlier this year, the project was initially called the Routt County Economic Index. Noreen Moore, business resource director for the cooperative, said the term "livability index" is more accurate because it will include environmental, social and civic classifications in addition to economic ones.

A committee for each classification is working to narrow the components that will be included in the "basket" that will constitute the index. At a meeting Wednesday, the environmental committee considered such measures as air quality, building permits, energy consumption and recycling, among many others.

Following this step, committees will work to develop descriptions for each component, which will state the intent of including them and the basis for comparison.

Roger Good, who is helping create the index, said it would be important to not only measure things from year to year, but also in comparison to the nation, state or similar resort communities. He said not doing so would be like receiving only half of a baseball score.

"We need to make sure we have both numerators and denominators, and the denominator is rarely ever 'what it was yesterday,'" Good said.

Moore said the index would provide the county with meaningful and useful data. Currently, the only indicator measured and reported is sales tax.

"We don't give ourselves any report card anywhere," Moore said.

To get an accurate picture of how "livable" Routt County is, more measurements are needed. On the economic side, sales tax has little relation to the sources of wage income in the county. Data on building permits, per capita income and real-estate transactions are among the other economic indicators that may be included in the index.

Moore said the index would grow in value as the years go on and more historical comparative data is available.

"It's going to take a few years," Moore said. "Any index is like that."

Moore said the cooperative is still seeking members for its four committees, with the goal of attaining a variety of county voices.

"We want all different areas of the county represented," Moore said.

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