Public forum will feature discussion about improving Steamboat economy


Past Event

Economic development open house

  • Tuesday, November 9, 2010, 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Olympian Hall, Howelsen Hill, Steamboat Springs
  • Not available / Free


— The Steamboat Springs City Council is taking a hands-on approach to stimulating the local economy. It’s an approach that seems to mesh with the business strategy of Colorado’s next governor.

In John Hickenlooper’s first speech as governor-elect, the Democratic Denver mayor told a Colorado Springs crowd that the only way for Colorado to revive its ailing budget is to stimulate the state’s business climate through a “bottom-up” process that starts at the local level.

The city of Steamboat Spr­­ings, also facing severe budget restrictions, is promoting a similar message and reaching out to its business community during an economic development open house tonight. The public forum, which begins at 5 p.m. in Olympian Hall, will feature a discussion about how the city can better support local businesses.

The forum follows the City Council’s decision last month to allocate $40,000 as an incentive for the potential expansion of ACZ Laboratories on the city’s west side. ACZ would receive the funds upon acquiring a certificate of occupancy for its potential expansion, as a reimbursement of tax dollars that would be paid up front.

City Council’s approval of those funds was intended to spur job creation and economic growth. The approval opened some eyes across Steamboat.

“This ACZ thing is the first time they’ve really ever done anything,” SmartWool President Mark Satkiewicz said Monday, referring to city efforts to stimulate local business growth. “There are some businesses, including SmartWool, that would love some additional help.”

Some help has been there in the past.

Steamboat’s former industrial enterprise zone, for example, expired at the end of 2009. It was in place for about 20 years on Steamboat’s west side. More than 240 businesses with industrial enterprise zone licenses, as of late 2009, were exempt from paying city sales and use taxes on the purchase or sale of parts, equipment, machinery and tools.

Steve Hofman, a Steamboat resident who served as an assistant secretary of labor under President George H.W. Bush and is a former director of research and policy for the Republican leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives, said the enterprise zone was a valuable policy.

“Clearly, things like enterprise zones, free trade zones, various development-related incentives need to be part of a communitywide strategy,” Hofman said, adding that such measures can create a more friendly environment for investors.

Hofman said that theoretically, if he were hired to do due diligence on locating a business facility in Steamboat, at the moment, he “would find it very difficult to recommend (Steamboat), given … the many hurdles that come up time and time again.”

Hofman discussed Steam­boat’s business climate earlier in fall in a meeting with City Manager Jon Roberts and City Council members Meg Bentley and Cari Hermacinski.

Roberts said that meeting helped spur tonight’s event, which he said is part of the city’s continuing efforts “to meet with the business community, find out what kind of challenges they’re having … (and) explore the possibility of a partnership between government and the business community.”

Roberts said rather than a primary emphasis on attracting new businesses — a strategy he said the city has employed in recent years — such a partnership instead could focus on supporting the city’s current businesses and increasing tourism.

City Councilman Walter Mag­­ill contended that the city currently cannot afford a significant amount of financial incentives.

Seven layoffs announced in City Hall last month capped a two-year work force reduction that has included hiring freezes, furloughs and pay reductions for city staff. The city is facing its third consecutive year of declining revenues.

Magill voted against the $40,000 incentive for ACZ, saying that the amount was too large and the approval did not establish criteria for future allocations.

“The city can put their hand out to shake … but the city can’t really put their hand out with a bunch of cash in it,” Magill said.

Roberts acknowledged the struggling state of city finances.

“Certainly, budgetary issues have to be a consideration,” Roberts said. “But then, also, there’s the argument that there’s a return on those types of dollars invested.”


Scott Ford 6 years, 5 months ago

What a fun day this is going to be! Anytime we take time to look at the local/regional economy beyond the "ups" and "downs" in monthly sales tax revenues it is a red letter day for me. YEA!

Part 1 -

Eight years ago while completing a project for Yampa Valley Partners - it was evident that the local "economy" when measured in terms of private sector income being generated was greater than the inputs of agriculture, mining and tourism were capable producing. Working with Noreen Moore, the Director of the Routt County Economic Development Cooperative we started "noodling" on trying to understand what was happening.

What we discovered was that there was a growing number of individuals that lived in Routt County, but did not make their living in Routt County. The term Location Neutral Business (LNB) was born over a cup of coffee in the CMC dining hall during a conversation between Noreen, Peter Parsons and myself. Peter was the example that helped define what was happening. He is a microchip designer who moved to Steamboat Springs - yet continued design microchips.

Peter and hundreds like him, have made the decision to live in the Steamboat Springs area because of the lifestyle it has to offer. What made it possible for these folks to make this lifestyle decision was the arrival of broadband in 2001/02. It was the broadband infrastructure that allows these folks to live here and do business all over the world. We all know folks that fall into this category. We think of them in terms of individuals and not as a growing industry sector.

For the most part these folks fall into an industry sector broadly defined as Technical, Scientific and Professional services. What we know today about this industry sector: In 2001 this industry sector represented 6.2% of private sector income and as of 2008 represented 7.6%. During this time the personal income (wages/salaries) from all sources in Routt County grew 55%. However, what is important is that the Technical, Scientific and Professional grew 92%. This industry sector and health care are the two fasted growing categories in Routt County.

Digging a wee-bit deeper using the IRS master files we can clearly see economic migration. I cannot see names but I see number of returns and dollars. The analysis of this data revels is that on a net basis (the move "ins" less the move "outs") Routt County have been growing in personal income at the rate of about $25 million annually for the past 8 years. Unless these folks moved here and got a whole lot poorer - their migration brings new dollars into the Yampa Valley and these dollars are cumulative. To put this in perspective all the personal income generated by the Retail Trade sector in the county generates annually about $80 million in personal income. Essentially every 3 years this net economic migration into Routt County has been equal to the personal income from the Retail Trade sector. WOW!


Ken Reed 6 years, 5 months ago

Hi Scott,

Very interesting post, thanks! There is also a quiet sector of individuals that move here that start "virtual" businesses. It seems it would be hard to measure their impact but they do make one. I moved here 8 years ago, started a business, leased office space, used local technical resources, held meetings and conferences in local facilities, ate out, etc. People came out for "business meetings" during the winter because we were based in Steamboat. The business was acquired and is now based in Baltimore, the move had a negative impact on local economics although it might be considered small. However, if there were 50 of these types of businesses in the valley it would make a big impact. I'm not sure what incentives the city could offer for attracting these types of businesses, but it would be worth exploring.



Scott Ford 6 years, 5 months ago

Part 2 -

The arrival of broadband in 2001/02 is analogous to the arrival of the railroad into the Yampa Valley/Steamboat Springs in 1908. These two events separated by almost a century essentially had the same effect. The respective infrastructure spurred economic growth in ways not anticipated for decades that followed or will follow.

Because we do not see the individuals ( LNBs) working out of a building every day - it is easy to believe there are only a few of them. If it was hypothetically possible to gather all the folks that have moved into the Yampa Valley who classify themselves as LNBs over the past 8 years and make them gather at single location it would require several building the size of TIC to contain them. Our best estimate of employment in this sector is about 800 to 1,000 jobs in Routt County.

Over the past year, the Routt County Economic Development Cooperative formulated a Regional Economic Development strategy that has been ratified by city and town governments in Routt County and the Routt County Commissioners.

This strategy focuses on strengthen infrastructure in three key areas and has identified ways to measure it.

First, working with the two community colleges that service Routt County (CMC and NWCC) to develop programs that train folks for jobs that pay at or above the median annual wage for Routt County. (The median annual wage is currently $41,600.) The goal is that by end of the 2013 term that 30% of the folks completing a degree or a certificate got their degree/certificate in an occupation that pays above the median annual wage. To put this simple we want the colleges to help increase the number of folks qualified for higher paying jobs.

Second, expand the availability of cellular coverage so that by 12/31/2012 95% of the paved roads in the county have access to both voice and data capabilities. (This is an economic and safety issue.)

Third, continue to expand broadband capabilities countywide so that 75% of the households in Routt County have access to download and upload speeds that are at least 25% as fast as the fastest commercially available speeds in the Denver/Boulder metro area. In addition, that 95% of the households in the immediate Steamboat Springs area (specifically the commercial districts) have speeds that are as fast as what is available in the Denver/Boulder area.


Scott Ford 6 years, 5 months ago

Part 3 -

So what can government (County or City) do to help support this three part strategy? Five things:

  1. Do not make life miserable for CMC. In addition, support and actively promote the programs of CMC's Small Business Resource Center and Yampa Valley SCORE which CMC host. The folks associated with both of these programs focus on strengthen existing businesses and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship. Offer scholarships, buy curriculum - sponsor promotional ads- just ask them they will tell you want they need -it is not much.

  2. The technology that supports cellular is changing rapidly. New capabilities are being introduced that utilize the 700 MHz frequency. These technologies are being piloted today in select metro areas. City staff can be on the lookout for grant opportunities that help bring this technology to our area. I would rather Steamboat Springs be the test site for this technology than Durango. It seems that too often the grant opportunities City staff focuses on are in the areas recreation and open space. Good things? Absolutely YES - but please have them keep an eye open for technology grants and lend their considerable expertice in helping our area secure such grants.

  3. When internet providers such as Comcast or Qwest need to renew their franchise agreements insist on speeds equal to the Denver/Metro area. We currently very close to meeting the speed goals, however, things are speeding up so we need to be sure to go for the fastest broadband speed these providers offer in the Denver/Boulder area. Go for broadband speeds and not the Cartoon Network. This insistence alone on broadband speeds will do more to grow our local economy with diverse and well paying jobs than anything else we can do.

  4. We all understand that the primary source of revenues for City government is sales tax. Assessing how the economy is doing solely based on sales tax revenues misses many elements in the economy that may be doing very well. An economic development strategy that focuses on sales tax generating industry sectors can be harmful if taken to an extreme. It is harmful because it can result in tactics that are rooted in increasing sales tax collection and not economic fundamentals that address items such as increases in diversity and personal income. Simply put, we all need to remember that it is possible to grow an economy in the wrong way.

  5. Lastly, spend the time and effort to learn about the local/regional economy. I do not have fancy blue ties like Carl, I wear a Hawaiian shirt every day, but for better worse, you have me. Pity Moffat County is stuck with me as well. I am learning all the time - let's learn together. Yampa Valley Partners started this year doing a Quarterly Economic Forecast. We can give you the dates when these forecast are released. Put Kate Nowak and I on your agenda when these are released. I can promise you it will be 30 minutes well spent.


Chad Fleischer 6 years, 5 months ago

Allow big box...we already have a horrible one so why not have a real one. Allow for current landowners to subdivide land parcels that meet current lot size requirements vs the proximity and lot size average in a subdivision rule. Spend money on businesses vs $250,000 on a ski jump Invest in long term infrastructure like bike paths, bike trails and land purchases. Put a few full service public bathrooms around town since there aren't any in downtown (like at corner of 10th and Lincoln in the city parking lot. Subsidize gondola to run earlier and later in the year. Not saying these are the best ideas but they are ideas and a way to spark conversation. Please don't assume I am anti ski jump either but we are talking about allocating funds where they may be best spent and if you look at percentage use of ski jump compared to anything in this town I would say it is the single largest misappropriation of funds. We lose 50% of our tax dollars to Summit and Moffat counties to their shopping centers as well as Eagle for Home Depot and Costco. Doesn't make sense when Costco alone delivered 129 jobs to Gypsum and paid for their rec center in 6 years that cost 19.5 million.(you can do some fact checking but I am close). It's snowing! That is the biggest boost to this economy every year!


1999 6 years, 5 months ago

so chad want us to look like silverthorn????

No thanks Bud.

money isn't worth my quality of life.

please tell us the value a plethora of big boxes will bring


1999 6 years, 5 months ago

chad and then in your next post tell us why you moved to steamboat and what you love about steamboat


sledneck 6 years, 5 months ago

OMG Take a breath dude.

How bout get the hell out of the way of businesses and let them decide what to do wothout the help of all you social engineering lunatics?

Or, lets buy a hotel and use it as affordable housing...


Scott Wedel 6 years, 5 months ago

Scott F. So I lived here for nearly a decade working remotely before it was recognized as a job category. Back then it was not high speed interactive, but the ability to download tasks and upload the completed work. Also, it was not that bad to use unix text editors over slower speed connections and work on the same code base as my coworkers.

I think you may be underestimating the challenge facing CMC to be relevant for LNBs. Currently the great majority of people working as LNBs are highly skilled. They are more likely to be senior staff than recent college grads. There is a good chance they have had the opportunity to take management positions, but have decided to work more as a skilled expert than as a manager. Thus, there is a big gap from graduating from CMC before working as a LNB.

CMC should have a goal of graduating students with skills suitable for high paying jobs. Whether or not there is strong local job market for those skills should be irrelevant. No respectable college would teach a less important curriculum that better matches the jobs available locally.

A big issue with our region and cellular is that the carriers big technical issue is providing greater capacity in high usage, high density areas. They are trying to figure out how to have many thousands of simultaneous very high speed sessions. Meanwhile, we have a relatively small customer base and a large ares with mountains blocking line of sight. Thus, this area still has dead spots on major roads. I think the county is probably going to have provide infrastructure that can be shared among carriers if we are going to get good coverage and better high speed services. (Also, required by City of SS "tree disguised" cellular tower above Howelson is far more noticeable than the adjacent traditional cell antenna).

There is no reason why Quest cannot meet the goals of providing more faster speeds. But not everything should revolve around SB and DSL isn't even available in Oak Creek, for instance. Also, much of the technology that allows faster DSL speeds in urban areas also allows for higher speeds on longer rural connections.

I will go a step further and suggest that local governments pursuing sales tax is generally a bad idea. The jobs associated with sales tax are almost always the lowest paying jobs of stocking, cashier and so on. Plus, sales tax means a whole lot of leakage because bringing in wholesale product means that money is leaving the valley. There are times when the money spent on attracting tourists and such can be paid off by the sales tax revenues generated by that activity. So Steamboat paying for airline seats is a reasonable investment with a satisfactory return. But sales tax as an economic policy does little to bring wealth to the region. In contrast, Silicon Valley governments tend to put a big priority on high tech companies and figure that the well paid employees are going to find local places to spend their money.


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