Photo by John F. Russell
Steamboat Springs City Council member Jon Quinn expresses his point of view with fellow member Meg Bentley during a discussion Monday afternoon at Centennial Hall. City Council has conducted several public discussions about economic development in recent months.
Steamboat Springs Randy Rudasics, of Yampa Valley SCORE and the Bogue Enterprise Center, suggested a website detailing local assets and resources for small businesses, to help Steamboat Springs attract new business owners and entrepreneurs.
John Spezia, of Transition Steamboat, talked about potential incentives for energy conservation or for businesses that promote sustainability, to develop a local renewable energy economy amid increasing demands for the finite resources of fossil fuels.
Ed MacArthur, of Native Excavating, suggested broad reductions to the city’s business-related codes and regulations, to spur activity from the private sector.
“You just need to get out of the way,” MacArthur said to Steamboat Springs City Council on Monday night in Centennial Hall.
Those three suggestions may have been the most concrete ideas to emerge during City Council’s wide-ranging discussion about economic development. The event was part of an ongoing series, which began with a packed forum in November at Howelsen Lodge. While Monday’s meeting drew a small crowd and passionate comments, much of the tone and topics changed little since that first forum in November.
City Council worked to clarify three long-term goals — preserving existing assets, leveraging those assets to boost economic activity, and increasing the city’s economic diversity — then placed potential action items beneath those assets. Those items included improving broadband access and supporting the Local Marketing District’s airline program and Bike Town USA initiatives.
City Finance Director Deb Hinsvark suggested the creation of an economic development fund in the city’s budget to better track and prioritize potential expenditures. She’s working on an estimate of funds that could be available for economic development. That figure could clarify potential action.
But coming three months into economic development work, Monday’s discussion frustrated some council members.
“We’ve been talking in the clouds here for quite a while,” City Council member Jon Quinn said. “I’d love to get into specifics.”
Steamboat resident Steven Hofman took the criticism a step further, telling City Council that the “discussion was almost Nero-esque” — “a little bit of fiddling,” he added later — and, at times, a fruitless exercise in “micromanaging
Hofman 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.
He helped start City Council’s economic development discussion process in fall during meetings with some council members and City Manager Jon Roberts. He said Monday’s conversation got off track from a central goal that he described as increasing the city’s economic competitiveness while maintaining the community’s character and values.
“I have no problem with clouds, as long as it’s the right cloud,” Hofman said later.
City Council is planning at least one more economic development discussion with facilitator Roger Good, potentially in mid-February.
— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com