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Steamboat Springs Business issues from the need to support lone eagles to the role of government in economic development got a close look Wednesday when the Steamboat Pilot & Today hosted local candidates for office and nearly 50 readers for the monthly Coffee and a Newspaper jaw session.
Jim "Moose" Barrows, Republican candidate for county Commissioner District 1, said Routt County has developed a reputation for a “hassle factor” that poses a deterrent to business.
“There’s a lot of frustration in the valley,” Barrows said. Changes need to come about so that “the county isn’t the enemy in terms of planning and development.”
Barrows said the model for a generation of successful households here has been to start modestly and “parlay” modest homes and small businesses into something bigger.
Barrows, who parlayed a career as an Olympic and professional ski racer into a business career developing citizen ski racing courses at ski areas around the globe, said he wants to help the county do more to keep that path to success in play.
“I started out with a little, tiny condo,” he said. “We didn’t have any money, but we made it work. That’s the template for people who live here. Leadership can help sustain that movement through the county.”
His opponent, Democrat Tim Corrigan — who lives in rural Yampa, is the president of the South Routt School Board and owns a drywall business in Steamboat — said he thinks the role of the Routt County Board of Commissioners should be providing and maintaining the infrastructure that business depends on: roads and transportation.
“The current commissioners haven’t borrowed a lot of money, and they set aside about $3.1 million every year for future capital needs,” Corrigan said. “Are there regulations that should be cut back? Many times, I’ve been frustrated with our building department, and it seem they put a lot of stumbling blocks in the way” of moving construction jobs forward. “But those regulations weren’t made up to make it harder for businesses but to protect people. There’s a balance to be struck.”
Tina Kyprios, Republican challenger for Commissioner District 2, said her background as an Army officer and as an auditor for the military taught her how to spot wasteful programs.
After starting a consulting business with her late husband, Kyprios said, she realized that entrepreneurs must go to “nine different places to find out what they need to do set up a company.”
“A lot could be done at the county level to streamline that,” Kyprios said. She added that she thinks the county needs to work more closely with local companies to prevent and plug gaps in the local economy.
Kyprios’ opponent, three-term incumbent Doug Monger, a rancher and accountant, said he would continue to work to support the family values-based lifestyle and the institutions of Routt County that attract location-neutral businesses and retirees.
“I don’t believe it’s government’s job to go out and create jobs,” Monger said. “We need not to be hindrances of jobs. We need to create predictability so (businesses) understand where government is going to be as we move ahead. We’ve protected open space that brings in visitors who love to see our mountains and people feeding cows.”
Running for Colorado’s House District 26, Diane Mitsch Bush, a longtime university sociologist and current member of the Board of Commissioners, said business owners tell her their greatest challenge is a lack of credit. She would like to expand upon the Angel Investor Act to develop another source of credit for small businesses. She also thinks Colorado businesses could benefit from a market-based health care exchange, “not a government takeover,” that would allow them to insure employees through a pool.
Mitsch Bush also lamented the fact that the state gasoline tax, which funds Colorado’s highway system, has been locked in at a flat rate since 1991 and has not been adjusted for inflation.
Her opponent, Republican Chuck McConnell, a former executive in the energy industry, is on record saying the quickest way to bring new high-paying jobs to the economy is to encourage energy development.
However, he also said he would advocate for a partnership between the state and federal agencies to engage the private sector involvement in cleaning up the large stands of beetle-killed trees in Colorado forests that pose a serious fire danger.
“I believe we can, through private sector involvement, clean out these fire hazards that could be turned into a pelletized fuel that could be sold as an energy source,” McConnell said.
The candidates and location neutral businesses
Asked by Steamboat Springs resident Jack Trautman this week for a specific action they would take to support location-neutral businesses, local candidates responded:
House District 26
Diane Mitsch Bush, D: Keeping the aviation fuel tax is absolutely essential to keep Yampa Valley Regional Airport going. We need better connection with rail to move goods.
Chuck McConnell, R: We need Internet capacity. I do not have a specific plan to do that.
Commissioner District 2
Tina Kyprios, R: Making sure (local) prices for broadband communications are the same as Denver prices. Utilize Bob Adams (Steamboat Springs Airport) to access cheaper transportation.
Doug Monger, D: We want to (attract) people who choose to live here, not people who have to live here. Second priority: improved broadband.
Commissioner District 1
Tim Corrigan, D: Location-neutral workers move here for quality of life and that includes quality schools. I would push hard for the state Legislature to untie the fiscal knot and work to improve our schools.
Jim “Moose” Barrows, R: No. 1 when I get in there: Make sure we have free parking at the airport for people who live here. People in South Routt can go to Eagle County Airport and park free.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com