The regional partnership aims to take a leading role in economic development

The new home page for the Routt County Economic Development Partnership provides tools that enable prospective companies to find commercial space, study local talent and learn more about the Yampa Valley.

Nearly $300,000 in state grants to several Routt County-based companies and startups hope to eventually create more than 60 jobs, each paying at or above the local average salary.

Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan said Monday, August 8, that it’s those kinds of statistics that can undermine his skepticism about economic development.

“I’m skeptical, but I’m not narrow-minded,” Corrigan said.

The joke came during a presentation by John Bristol, executive director of the Routt County Economic Development Partnership, a new nonprofit trying to separate local economic development from the Steamboat Springs Chamber, which has historically handled it.

Bristol said it was the culmination of years of discussions about what economic development in the Yampa Valley should look like and how to make it sustainable over the long term.

“I think there’s long been a community conversation about having a pure economic development organization that focuses on primary businesses,” Bristol said. “These are the companies that bring new revenue and new capital to the county.”

Bristol said the key difference between the Chamber and this new organization is tax status. The Chamber is a 501(c)6 organization intended for advocacy, with this new partnership being a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

That difference opens up much more state, federal and other grant funding opportunities to the partnership that the Chamber doesn’t currently have access to, Bristol said.

“I think a key element is the partnership,” said Bristol. “We all have to work together, in the county and in the communities.”

Currently, the partnership includes Routt County, Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Yampa, the Yampa Valley Electric Association, the Yampa Valley Community Foundation and the Chamber as investors, among others. Bristol said he hopes to eventually add Oak Creek into the mix as well.

The board of the partnership consists of all local city, town or district leaders as well as some local companies and is still in the process of building the organisation. According to Bristol, the application to become a 501(c)3 organization was filed with the IRS and the approval process typically takes six to eight months.

Nonetheless, the partnership recently hired its second staff member, who will focus on what Bristol describes as the cornerstone of economic development, “business preservation and expansion”.

When it comes to recruiting new businesses, Bristol believes he believes in a more reactive approach that’s consistent with how the rest of Colorado goes about it.

“What Colorado has to offer is talent — really smart people — and second, quality of life,” Bristol said. “Attraction is usually not a big priority.”

Bristol said he wants to make sure a business looking to relocate or incorporate in Routt County has some sort of “concierge” who understands what the business needs and whether the community can accommodate those needs.

That can be especially important outside of Steamboat Springs in places like Hayden, which are actively trying to attract new business, Bristol said. The new partnership website
has what Bristol has dubbed an attraction site, which hopes to be the first step in the attraction process by identifying potential commercial space that is available locally.

The site also includes data on which industries are already here, community demographics, and an overview of what type of talent resides in the Yampa Valley.

“This work that’s being done is the big picture,” Bristol said. “It takes a long time, but we make it possible.”

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