Our View: A measured approach to our economy

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Editorial Board, August through December 2010

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Blythe Terrell, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Rich Lowe, community representative
  • Sue Birch, community representative

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As excited as we are about the idea of the Steamboat Springs City Council supporting policies that could stimulate the economy, we were glad to see the council rein in some of the ideas that have been floated.

Instead of addressing specific policies Tuesday, the council opted to ask Roger Good, who sits on economic development boards for the city and Routt County, to meet with council members at a retreat Jan. 13. A more in-depth, policy-driven discussion of economic development initiatives is planned for that retreat.

Some great options have been suggested, and we applaud the council for taking steps toward exploring them and treading carefully. Many will require careful thought.

For example, it has been suggested that the city provide micro loans and grants to entrepreneurs. According to information provided in the council agenda packet, the finance director is reviewing that suggestion, and criteria and procedures would need to be established.

This would put the city into almost a venture capitalist role. That could raise issues such as accusations of providing a competitive advantage to one business against another. Such a program also could raise the hackles of existing business owners, who started up and worked toward prosperity without an infusion of taxpayer dollars. The city should focus on creating the right environment to support businesses without becoming the funding provider.

The city has started examining fees and policies that might be cumbersome to businesses, and this is a smart move. At a meeting in fall, a business owner expressed concern about a burdensome fee. As a result, the planning director is reviewing the city peddler policy. The license fee is $25, but the cost to review and approve the license is $1,500. If that proves to be unreasonable, the city has a great opportunity to reconsider. Surely, there are other fees that could be re-evaluated.

As the city examines the possibilities, council members should look at how to attract businesses to Steamboat — and keep businesses in Steamboat — without throwing money at them. We like the idea of technology infrastructure upgrades that help a huge variety of existing and potentially new businesses, including the location-neutral population.

That investment would require funding, as would a tax-incentive program. A recent agreement to provide tax breaks for an expansion at ACZ Laboratories could lead to a model for such arrangements. City staff members suggested to the council that it ensures that any tax incentives lead to creation of professional-level jobs. That’s crucial. Everything the council does to promote economic development should be done with an understanding of what the return on investment will be for the community.

City staff members have offered up suggestions with an understanding that there is “low hanging fruit” available. Those items include clarifying the noise ordinance for downtown businesses and providing late-night transportation from downtown to the base of Mount Werner. That transportation started running Dec. 16, and the city deserves kudos for taking quick action.

The city also has budgeted $35,000 to support the Quiznos Pro Challenge bike stage race in August, and it will manage finances for the host committee and provide in-kind support for the event. That’s another cost-effective way to bolster the Steamboat economy.

Overall, we applaud city staff and council for putting the focus and energy on the economy. They appear to be taking a measured approach to the problem, rather than hitting the panic button, and we hope that’s a recipe for successful and prudent policies.

Comments

JLM 3 years, 8 months ago

It is absurd that the City of Steamboat Springs should go into the venture capital business with taxpayers' money.

The City Council barely possesses the requisite knowledge or leadership to govern and now they are to become financial and investment analysts and venture capitalists?

Were it not so serious, I would not be able to stop laughing.

Do you remember what a great investment the Iron Horse 'ho house turned out to be?

Investment of OPM (other people's money) is a profession not a hobby.

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Ken Reed 3 years, 8 months ago

Nice article and I agree with yvb and JLM.

The ACZ example is a good one, provide incentives (tax breaks) to local businesses that are growing and have a proven track record. Encourage other proven, local businesses to expand.

Trying to lure unproven businesses here by providing loans and grants with the hope that they succeed is a bad idea. Luring new businesses to the area is best done by creating an environment that entices new businesses and entrepreneurs to move here. It also improves the quality of life for those of us who are currently here and call this place home.

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kyle pietras 3 years, 8 months ago

Ken hit the nail on the head! Tax breaks are ok, its the total environment businesses are after. The out door experience, quality of life, airport access public and private, hotels and convention centers, and affordable places for businesses to grow and people to live. We need to work on some of these things.

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sledneck 3 years, 8 months ago

Loaning money. Compete with banks and mobsters. Giving grants. Compete with non-proffit orgs. Bike race sponsorship. Compete with business sponsors. Will the city sponsor a snowmobile race? A monster truck rally? Mud wrestling? Punkin Chunkin? Etc?

Talk about things outside the domain of government. No chance of favoritism in those ventures, eh? Sounds like local governments are borrowing a page out of "Uncle Scam's" playbook.

How 'bout a local government being on the cutting edge of a totally new approach? How 'bout cut your size by 60% and leave everybody the h**l alone? Can we try that? It's FREE!

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John Fielding 3 years, 8 months ago

.

Or how about not restricting business activities to prevent potential problems, not even reviewing them for conditional use (thus eliminating the $1500 fee), but only stepping in to mitigate when a genuine problem occurs?

.

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kathy foos 3 years, 8 months ago

Recycling operations need a helping hand,this area is way behind .Jobs for professionals only created?If its not for alternative energy and recycling,just forget it.

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JLM 3 years, 8 months ago

If the City Council wants to spur the economy, it should consider waiving all fees for all of 2011 or allowing fees to be paid over a 5-year period of time.

The City Council should do things to encourage MARKET FORCES to grow, multiply and create jobs rather than attempting to go into the job creation business.

Government does not create jobs. The private sector does.

If you reduce the impact of government on the private sector, jobs will be created.

This is so fundamentally basic as to be laughable.

What did you fail to learn from the Iron Horse debacle? Governments should not compete with the private sector.

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sledneck 3 years, 8 months ago

Apparently they have learned NOTHING from Iron Horse save that when the schemes of incessant busybodies blow up in their face they can always lay the mess at the taxpayers' feet.

No matter how educated, it seems men never learn inexpensive lessons. As long as others take the loss these duds will continue to fancy themselves the "Warren Buffetts" of northwest Colorado whether the record supports that assumption or not.

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pitpoodle 3 years, 8 months ago

City Council and Everyone, please, read JLM just above. It is not the job of government to create jobs - it can't. Jobs created by government only increases the size of government. Stop it. The private sector creates jobs but needs government to stop making demands in terms of fees and, in many cases, stupid and expensive requirements. Reducing the impact of government on the private sector is a key to job creation. Thanks JLM.

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 8 months ago

The private sector in Steamboat is over-regulated? Wrong. By far the largest obstacle to our local economy is the huge inventory of speculative properties that will take years to sell. The private sector CREATED this problem.

But I agree our government needs to refocus. Get back to basics. Instead of looking around for the next great economic idea, refocus energy and budget on the basics of maintaining an attractive place to live and visit. City Council members should spend a day pretending they are a tourist, and another as a business owner. Ride the bus. Walk the paths that our tourists and clientele walk. What can they improve in that picture?

Instead of considering the next way to grow, look at the small details to improve the Steamboat of today. Walking past grime and cigarette butts at a Lincoln Ave bus stop amount to an economic disincentive. Walking in Oak St or Yampa Av traffic to get to a professional office or restaurant amounts to an economic disincentive. Isn’t providing sidewalks in commercial districts and keeping them clean a more fitting responsibility of government?

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pitpoodle 3 years, 8 months ago

Providing sidewalks in commercial districts and keeping them clean could be the responsibility of government in SBS. However, the city mandates that a business pay for their sidewalk at great expense and then mandates that the business maintain it - also at great cost. Some of these sidewalks go no where but the business owner will have a fine, if it is not cleared of snow. This is exactly the type of mandate that makes it expensive to do business in SBS. Call it what you will -- over regulated or over mandated, it still costs businesses money that isn't always available or could be spent to make a business grow.

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JLM 3 years, 8 months ago

@ lewi ---

One of the elements of a free market economy is the specter of "creative destruction" otherwise known as failure. You must be allowed to risk your capital and sometimes you must be allowed to fail. This is not an indictment of free market capitalism, it is the essence of free market capitalism.

You make your bets and you suffer the consequences --- NOT, you then look for the bailout window.

Government does not independently generate its money. Every $$$ used by the government belongs to the taxpayers. Government has an obligation to take as little as possible knowing that a taxpayer has more right to his own money than does government.

Nobody should ever be ashamed of working their butt off to make a buck and then wanting to keep as much of the benefit of their labor as possible.

Government is overbearing and wasteful of its taxpayers' money.

What government should really do is get out a pan and go panhandling and see how many of their goofy ideas would get funded voluntarily by the taxpayers. Not too damn many.

There is nothing wrong with a bit of civic pride motivating folks to clean their sidewalks and put out some flowers in the Spring --- but government confiscating even more funds to do thus --- no way, Jose!

And, hey, have a nice damn day!

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 8 months ago

JLM, That was a nice day, thanks! You know few businesses would voluntarily build sidewalks – look at Oak St today. Seems you are proposing everyone continue to walk in the street?

Wonder what Roger Good thinks about that....

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 8 months ago

Poodle, I partly agree with you about the expense. My PC insisted on a full width sidewalk for commercial property near industrial use where pedestrian traffic would be light, and we should have let it be narrower and thus cheaper. But the sidewalks should definitely be built. (And permit fees, etc, should be charged.)

I doubt anyone is being fined with sidewalks to nowhere. We’ve had one on Oak St for 10 years and have never had a fine. It wasn’t expensive to build. I was actually happy to put it in because we expected the most of the block to eventually get a sidewalk too. Never happened. Instead we still have the only 50 ft of sidewalk on my side of the block and have watched for 10 winters as our patrons reached our door the only way possible - walking in the street. That's long enough. I would gladly maintain our walk and help my neighbors with theirs to allow patrons a safer path to our businesses.

There is an issue with liability that no one wants to deal with. But we and most property owners have insurance for that already.

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ybul 3 years, 8 months ago

Steve,

The speculation in the housing market probably was nudged along by the federal reserves desire to have low interest rates, the governments tax incentive to carry a mortgage on ones house and other factors that have little to do from someone hoping to profit from building a home.

The market will correct as people view their home as less of a get rich scheme today than they did in the past.

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pitpoodle 3 years, 8 months ago

Lewi, I brought up one example of how SBS makes it expensive to do business here. It does not mean we shouldn't have sidewalks. If the city wants them and has planned for them, then use my tax dollars to do that. Do not take my tax dollars and waste it on the Iron Horses of the world and then make me absorb the cost of a sidewalk and its maintenance. If the city wants businesses to do well - even survive, stop some of the stupid mandates dreamed up by planning and public works staffers.

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