Economic focus heightens in Steamboat

City explores financial incentives, job creation proposals in efforts to help businesses

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If you go

What: Meeting of the Steamboat Springs City Council

When: 5 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.

Contact: Call city offices at 970-879-2060 or visit http://steamboats... for more information.

Agenda highlights

5 p.m. Proclamation recognizing the Steamboat Springs School District and Superintendent Shalee Cunningham, for being accredited with distinction by the Colorado Department of Education; discussion of whether to adopt seasonal District of Wildlife closures at off-leash dog parks; resolutions supporting three recent grants from Great Outdoors Colorado, for Howelsen Hill improvements and an Emerald Mountain land purchase

7 p.m. Public comment; economic development discussion

— A formalized, city-funded business incentive program will be among the ideas on the table Tuesday night, when Steamboat Springs staff and officials hold a wide-ranging discussion about economic development and job creation.

The discussion is part of continued efforts to find ways to boost Steamboat Springs’ businesses — new and existing — amid high unemployment and recessionary sales tax revenues.

City staff, led by Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord and Finance Director Deb Hinsvark, have presented Steamboat Springs City Council with an extensive slate of short- and long-term economic development proposals and talking points. The proposals are planned for discussion near the end of Tuesday night’s City Council meeting in Centennial Hall. Many of the suggestions stem from City Council’s public economic dev­­­­­elopment forum Nov. 9 in Howelsen Lodge.

In addition to a formalized business incentive program, ideas include developing criteria for outright micro-loans or grants to boost startups and entrepreneurs; a clarified noise ordinance, for owners of nighttime-oriented businesses downtown; infrastructure improvements to help technology industries; continued promotion of bicycle-friendly initiatives and events; and more.

Read the full economic development package in a document posted online with this story at www.steamboatpilot.com.

DuBord said in preparing the economic development package, she spoke extensively with staff from the city of Boulder, which spends about $350,000 per year to support several businesses through sales or use tax rebates, permit fee reimbursements or other incentives.

In October, the city allocated a potential expenditure of $40,000 for ACZ Laboratories, which is planning an expansion of its building on Steamboat’s west side. ACZ would receive the money after receiving a certificate of occupancy for its expansion, as essentially a reimbursement of taxes ACZ would pay up front.

DuBord said ACZ expansion next year could create high-paying jobs that provide benefits for employees — potential criteria for a formalized incentive policy.

“Even though we didn’t have a written policy, ACZ actually provided all those things,” DuBord said. “A lot of what we saw in the situation with ACZ is probably something that council may want to discuss and maybe actually formalize it.”

Councilwoman Meg Bentley, baking Christmas cookies at home Sunday, cited the importance of diversifying the city’s economy beyond tourism industries and supported the idea of micro-loans for technology startups or location-neutral businesses.

“I would entertain a request from any startup or any small business that wants to grow and increase their payroll,” Bentley said.

Jens Owen, of Storm Peak Innovations, an incubator for tech entrepreneurs, told City Council at the forum Nov. 9 that such a boost could be invaluable to his clients, who are taking the first steps toward getting their ideas off the ground but often lack startup capital.

“Anything to help bridge that financial gap would be welcome,” Owen said.

The frustration at the Nov. 9 forum was palpable.

“I’m really, really, really worn out,” said Michael Van Vliet, of Storm Mountain LLC and Storm Mountain Express, a local shuttle service. “I will never be able to retire at this point. … You’re seeing anger in stores, you’re seeing anger in retail.”

Also that night, local builder David Josfan told City Council that the construction industry is “slowly, slowly dying here” — before giving an indication of just what, exactly, is at stake when City Council talks about the need to spur economic development.

“There’s a lot of good people leaving Steamboat,” Josfan said.

Comments

Ken Reed 3 years, 9 months ago

The pdf file associated with this article located under the "multimedia/documents" tab does not download properly and will hang your browser. Tried it twice with the same results.

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Mike Lawrence 3 years, 9 months ago

Hi Ken,

Thanks for letting us know. I've added the document directly onto this page and was able to download it that way. Hopefully that method works better. Give me a call if you continue to have problems.

All the best,

Mike Lawrence Reporter Steamboat Pilot & Today 970-871-4233 mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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Ken Reed 3 years, 9 months ago

Thanks Mike, I was able to download it on a mac so I can now see it. The issue may have been on my end, the pdf reader on my PC did not have the correct font (tahoma) that was in the document. I'm guessing this doc was created on a mac. Thanks again.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 9 months ago

Scott Ford; It is my understanding that micro loans are for people too poor to access bank loans and are an effective means of helping grow businesses in poor areas? How does that jive with SB's median income of $41.6K? Would seem to me that since it would tend to crate jobs less than $41.6K then your definition of economic vitality would suggest that micro loans should be discouraged.

And actually, I think Lift-Up locally has been doing the equivalent of micro loans in terms of modest money to people to help people earn money. I personally know that they have helped someone buy tools so that person could get a better job which is a typical example of a micro loan sort of transaction. Only difference is that Lift-Up is not insistent upon being repaid.

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