YVEDC attracts top officials for economic discussion

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The Yampa Valley Economic Development Council Wednes-

day night played host to more than 80 residents, elected officials and business representatives from Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties.

The group packed the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion to hear two of Colorado’s top officials lead a discussion on Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Colorado Blueprint and the services available to rural communities for economic development.

Reeves Brown, executive director of the Department of Local Affairs, believes Colorado is on the cusp of some serious and exciting economic changes under the Hickenlooper administration.

Brown, a self-proclaimed conservative Republican serving in a Democratic governor’s cabinet, attributes that belief to a key ingredient for a vibrant economic environment, a culture of collaboration.

“The thing that excites me most is this governor understands it takes more than smart people in Denver to fix the state’s problems,” Brown said. “I’m one of six members in the governor’s cabinet from the Western Slope. That’s more than the last three administrations combined.”

But, Brown said Hickenlooper has not only bridged the geographic gap in an effort to strengthen Colorado’s economic future, but appointed people to high-level state positions because of a shared vision for the future rather than partisan politics.

“That’s exactly what it takes,” Brown said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican because at the end of the day a pothole is a pothole.

“What separates the thrivers from the survivors is the ability to bring people together to figure out a way to get it fixed.”

Brown has spent a good amount of time traveling the state since he was appointed executive director of DOLA a year ago. He is constantly amazed to find communities that appear to have almost no resources are thriving, while others with nearly unlimited resources are still struggling to “get their act together.”

“If you asked me to bet on the futures of two communities — one with nothing but a shared vision for the future, and the other with unlimited resources but an inability to work together — I’d take the folks with a shared vision every time,” Brown said.

Brown hopes the collaboration he has been exposed to at the top will trickle down to the state’s small towns along with his office’s mission to strengthen Colorado communities through specialized training and technical and financial assistance.

Where Brown hopes to see the economy improve from the top down, Ken Lund, executive director of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, said his office is focused on a bottom up strategy.

According to the Colorado Blueprint, Hickenlooper be-

lieves economic development in the state requires creating a business friendly environment, building a stronger Colorado brand, and retaining, growing and recruiting companies.

A big part of recruitment involves identifying and understanding the state’s primary industries, Lund said.

“One of the things we’re working on is identifying Colorado’s top 15 industry clusters and developing a plan to grow those industries,” Lund said. “Approximately 57 percent of the jobs in Colorado are linked to the state’s top 15 industries.”

OEDIT plans to help small communities attract and land new businesses by promoting a culture built on communication, connections, and, like DOLA, a culture of collaboration, Lund said.

“Our offices share a vision,” Lund said. “And we’re all in it for the same reason, to make Colorado better and to be the model for growth in the future.”

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