Entrepreneurial spirit flourishes in Oak Creek, economist says | SteamboatToday.com

Entrepreneurial spirit flourishes in Oak Creek, economist says

Zach Fridell

— The key to a thriving economy in Oak Creek is not to try to change the habits of its residents, local economist Scott Ford said, but to bring in business from the surrounding area.

As the business resource director for the Routt County Economic Development Coop­erative, Ford gave a presentation to the Oak Creek Town Board last week. Overall, he's encouraged by what he sees in the town.

"They've got a lot of talent there, and that's part of what this highlighted to me," he said.

He said the key is to find ways the town can help attract new businesses.

"Our challenge is to drive business to Oak Creek because that's 85 percent of what's going on," he said. Trying things like getting residents to eat at local restaurants more often, for example, will only tip the scales a little and can be very difficult.

"That's an absolutely Her­culean effort, changing consumer shopping patterns," he said.

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Although it's not entirely clear where the outside business comes from, Ford said it's pretty easy to guess that a lot comes from other parts of Routt County and the population center of Steamboat Springs.

Ford said it's easy for towns to fall into a trap of "there's nothing that can be done," but by promoting local workshops and training sessions, he said Oak Creek could help boost its economy.

According to Ford's analysis of tax returns, Oak Creek had $9.93 million in retail sales in 2008, the most recent year for which figures are available. That's less than the $11.64 million in 2007, but generally continues an upward trend from $8.53 million in 2006.

Also at last week's meeting, the Town Board members:

■ Voted to table a suggestion to award merit-based raises to all town employees until after an audit.

■ Approved a liquor license renewal for Shorty's.

■ Agreed to decline to accept their pay for being Town Board members. Other recent Town Boards also have declined to collect their stipends.

■ Tabled an extension of the emergency moratorium on medical marijuana cultivation until board members hear from the town attorney regarding the new statewide medical marijuana law.

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