Editorial Board, May 11 through Sept. 21, 2011
- Scott Stanford, general manager
- Brent Boyer, editor
- Tom Ross, reporter
- Laura Schmidt, community representative
- Jim Miller, community representative
Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.
The numbers are staggering. In January 2008, Routt County’s workforce numbered 17,116. Forty months later, it has shrunk to 13,106.
The local unemployment rate was above 11 percent in May, higher than the national average. Foreclosure notices continue to be filed with the county at record levels. Health and human service demands still are skyrocketing, with the number of households receiving food assistance from the county’s Department of Human Services up nearly 71 percent from May 2009 to May 2011.
What the numbers reveal is a very real need for local governments, economic development councils, chambers of commerce and others to dedicate time and energy to job creation, and policies and programs that can foster economic development not necessarily tied directly to attracting a family of four to Steamboat Springs for a week in the summer or winter.
Our leaders can’t simply assume that it’s not possible to improve employment here. And we can’t wait for the real estate industry to return to its 2007 state — it may never get there.
The city of Steamboat Springs has taken steps in the past year to address job creation and local business growth. An economic development summit resulted in a plan that calls for micro-grants to startups and larger grants to local businesses that demonstrate strategies to add jobs. The city’s $40,000 grant to ACZ Laboratories was the first use of that program.
The city also has succeeded in maintaining a conservative, balanced budget during these lean times. City Manager Jon Roberts says the city has trimmed its overall budget by 48 percent since 2008. Ensuring that the cost of government is reasonable is key to allowing existing businesses to thrive while also attracting new ones.
The city can’t be the only one taking a proactive role in economic development. The county should be credited for its persistence in Yampa Valley Regional Airport upgrades. A viable airport with dependable air service is key to attracting small businesses and location-neutral professionals.
But there are larger initiatives worth exploring that could have a tremendous impact on job creation and economic stability in our area. Economist Carl Steidtmann spoke during this year’s Economic Summit about improving technology infrastructure and its ability to attract location-neutral businesses and entrepreneurs as “probably one of the most under-realized opportunities for the Yampa Valley, and for Steamboat in particular.” Steamboat resident Roger Good has made a similar pitch to officials including Gov. John Hickenlooper.
We’ve seen the tremendous success of local businesses like TIC, SmartWool, Moots Cycles, Honey Stinger and Big Agnes, among others. We’ve also seen the impact to the community when those businesses go through changes, as has been happening with TIC since its sale to Kiewit in 2008.
The reason those businesses grew here, and created jobs here, is because the entrepreneurs behind them wanted to live in Steamboat Springs. There’s an opportunity here to capitalize on our wonderful community assets and amenities to attract other entrepreneurs from across the county. We recognize some of the steps that have been taken in recent months relative to economic development, but we also know it’s not enough.