Economist at Steamboat summit predicts connectivity will help Yampa Valley grow

Social technologies, increased connectivity having global and local impact

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Carl Steidtmann

Past Event

Steamboat Economic Summit

  • Thursday, May 26, 2011, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel & Condominiums, 2300 Mount Werner Circle, Steamboat Springs
  • All ages / $65 - $80

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Thursday's agenda

9 a.m. Dan Cox, president of Lawrence, Kan.-based Mediaphormedia, speaks about “Emerging Media and Marketing Trends and What They Mean to Small Business.”

10:15 to 11:30 a.m. Breakout sessions including “Social Media Technologies You Should Use Now,” “The Innovative Spirit in Steamboat is Alive” and “Tourism Innovation.”

11:30 a.m. Announcement of the Entrepreneur of the Year award. Then, during lunch, Roger Brooks, founder and CEO of Destination Development International, talks about “The Seven Things You Need to Do to Win in this Era of the Brand.”

1:30 p.m. Breakout sessions including “Driving an Evolution in Culture for Strategic Gain,” with SmartWool President and General Manager Mark Satkiewicz; “What’s Facebook Changed Lately?” and “Is Service Your Best Sales Tool?”

3 p.m. Keynote address by Jan Horsfall, CEO and chairman of Gelazzi, “Establishing an ‘Added Value’ Mindset.”

— Economist Carl Steidtmann said Wednesday that the rapid global spread of social media technologies and faster Internet connectivity ultimately could be very good news for Steamboat Springs and Northwest Colorado.

By removing barriers to communication and reducing competitive advantages or disadvantages of location, Steidtmann said, members of the work force in the emerging digital age increasingly will choose where to live based less on necessity and more on quality of life, which, he noted, Steamboat happens to have in spades.

“I think this is probably one of the most under-realized opportunities for the Yampa Valley, and for Steamboat in particular,” Steidtmann said about the potential for location-neutral businesses to flourish and the need for promoting that potential to continue bringing innovative professionals to the area.

“It’s ultimately the quality of the human capital of a place that determines the quality of the economy,” he said.

Steidtmann is chief economist and director of consumer business for Deloitte Research. His wide-ranging remarks opened the 2011 Economic Summit, which continues Thursday with speakers, panel discussions, a business expo and more at The Steamboat Grand. The theme of this year’s summit is “Innovate-Create-Evolve: Strategies to Reinvent Your Business.”

Steidtmann said connectivity-related technology is spurring social, political and economic reinventions globally, from accelerating this spring’s series of revolutions in the Arab world to affecting numerous markets and industries with the expansion of 4G broadband access.

“There’s a lot of businesses that are gong to be rolled out taking advantage of this high-speed bandwidth that is not there today,” he said.

Improving the region’s broadband access and encouraging location-neutral businesses were often cited as key factors for local business growth during the city’s economic development discussions during winter.

“I think you market it the same way you market skiing,” Steidtmann said about Steamboat’s location-neutral opportunities. “Having spent a lot of time in the Silicon Valley (with traffic congestion and expensive real estate), I think it’s not that tough of a sell.”

Grant Fenton, a leader of local Bike Town USA efforts to increase cycling infrastructure and tourism, said some secondary impacts of those efforts often are overlooked.

“One of the most under-appreciated parts of the whole Bike Town initiative is that you’re adding to the quality of life,” Fenton said, citing Steidtmann’s assertion that focusing on quality of life can attract professionals and stimulate local economies.

Brian Ewing, director of sales and marketing for OtterBox, also spoke Wednesday night. OtterBox is a Fort Collins company that creates protective cases for handheld technology, such as smartphones and tablet computers, and has expanded worldwide.

In detailing OtterBox’s business philosophies, Ewing spoke about simple ideas including an “idea drawer,” an electronic file that all employees can access to suggest ideas to improve the company.

The notion resonated with Steamboat Springs Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord.

“I don’t think we do a good enough job of encouraging our employees to come up with good ideas, at every level,” DuBord said.

Steidtmann cited several economic threats — including federal and state deficits and a construction industry that continues to struggle — but said there’s reason for optimism.

“The U.S. economy is still the most dynamic in the world, and Steamboat is still one of the most beautiful places in the world to live in,” he said. “We will see a very long, sustained recovery from this recession.”

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com

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