Thursday meetings will address local economy

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If you go

What: Workforce Forum entitled "Retaining Our Workforce"

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Rex's American Bar and Grill

Cost: $15, includes lunch

Call: 875-5000 to reserve a seat

If you go

What: El Pomar Foundation focus group meeting to look at impacts of growth

When: 11 a.m. to noon Thursday

Where: Conference Room 1 in the Routt County Courthouse Annex

Cost: Free; members of the public are encouraged to attend

— Two separate meetings, both dealing with economic issues in and around Steamboat Springs, are scheduled for Thursday.

The first meeting is a forum being conducted by the Northwest Area Council of the El Pomar Foundation to aid a growth impact study being conducted by Mesa State College.

Georgann Jouflas, a Mesa State instructor involved with the study, said the forum will help identify how Routt County is measuring and responding to growth. Similar forums will be held across Rio Blanco, Moffat, Garfield and Mesa counties to discover what economic analysis has already occurred in the five-county region and how the counties might begin to work together.

"We're doing these focus groups hoping that people can steer us in the right direction," Jouflas said. "We hope to find out what's being done so that resources can be used more efficiently."

The goal of the study is to develop a summary report of available economic data in the five counties, identify gaps and provide recommendations for meeting the physical and human infrastructure needs of the region.

Noreen Moore, business resource director for the Routt County Economic Development Cooperative, said it will be interesting and helpful to see what the study finds, especially because Routt County's current growth cycle is not similar to previous ones.

"This looks like what we used to know, but the drivers are not the same," Moore said. "It's a tough thing to face when it's an economy we don't understand."

The forum is scheduled for 11 a.m. to noon Thursday in Conference Room 1 in the Routt County Courthouse Annex. The meeting is open to all.

Also Thursday is a workforce forum presented by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Economic Development Council titled "Retaining Our Workforce." The forum will discuss the high rate of employee turnover in Steamboat, its costs and strategies to prevent it. A panel including representatives from TIC and Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. will discuss the topic and offer suggestions.

Bob Larson, the council's chairman, said the workforce around Steamboat is tightening and businesses have to be proactive in finding ways to hold on to employees.

"I think it's one of the biggest challenges we have," Moore said. "There are more jobs here than there are people."

Moore said in the past, Steamboat businesses would simply hire workers from outlying communities, but now those workers are fully employed as well, presenting a new challenge.

Randy Rudasics, director of the small business resource center at Colorado Mountain College, said workforce retention is a big deal to many local businesses. In a presentation at the forum, he will provide 12 tips for minimizing employee turnover, including improving training of supervisors - since employees usually leave bad bosses, not companies - and providing employees with challenges and learning opportunities.

The workforce forum is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Rex's American Bar & Grill. The $15 cost includes lunch. Seating is limited, and those wishing to register should call 875-5000.

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com.

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