Our View: City, county officials should focus on jobs | SteamboatToday.com

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Our View: City, county officials should focus on jobs

— The city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County have tasked some staff members with tweaking information in the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan. Although this plan has value for government officials and the community, now is not the appropriate time to devote resources to it.

Rather, the city and county should focus as much as possible on economic and jobs development.

According to an article in The Denver Post this week, "Colo­rado should add about 10,100 jobs next year after losing more than 140,000 jobs the past two years, according to a forecast released Monday by University of Colorado economists."

Even if jobs are coming back, they're returning slowly. Routt County's unemployment rate was 9.2 percent in October. The number of households receiving food assistance has more than doubled in two years, and the county's human services staff members are scrambling to keep up with demand.

Steamboat Springs City Council member Bart Kounovsky spoke to this point when the city and county discussed the planned update Monday. He said Tuesday that he became less concerned when he realized the city would use existing staff members to update the plan rather than hiring outside consultants. Still, Kounovsky said he wanted to make sure the city continued its conversations about economic development.

"I think that the council spent a bunch of time and effort in regards to that already, and I don't want to see that focus fall aside," he said.

We don't, either.

The council held an open house with the public recently, which led to an exchange of ideas about how to stimulate the economy. The city — and the county, where appropriate — should continue conversations about how to implement some of those ideas. This also is a good time to review city fees for permits and construction to make sure they are reasonable and not prohibitive for people who want to do business or build.

We're not suggesting that the city has ignored the economy and residents' needs. Kounovsky pointed to $40,000 in tax incentives for an expansion at ACZ Laboratories as an example of a positive step the city already has taken toward economic development.

"To me, that was a perfect scenario where we're helping a long-term community business, and in my mind, we would get more bang for our buck in regards to helping those kinds of businesses," he said.

We recognize that the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan is outdated. The plan was adopted in 1995 and revised in 2004 at the end of a three-year process. The city and county aren't planning a massive revision, but rather intend to update some of the information on which the plan is based.

We're not against community conversations about the area's future. However, most of the people in the area probably are more concerned about keeping their jobs and spurring the economy. A couple of questions our governments should continue to consider: How do we better compete for scarce business opportunities in this environment? What are the best policies that will create the best environment for business development in our community?

What we want to see is a firm focus on what's most important to the community. The City Council and the Routt County Board of Commissioners have a lot on their plates. Let's make sure they're devoting time, staff resources and tax dollars to the highest-priority issues.