Diversifying the economy, boosting businesses and attracting young people to the area were only a few of the topics discussed during a business forum at Colorado Northwestern Community College on Tuesday.
The presentation was called The Marianna Raftopoulos Business Incubator Business Forum, where economic experts highlighted ways Moffat County can open new businesses and boost existing ones. Students and community members also had a chance to attend the Colorado Workforce Center job fair that took place after the event.
Steven Hofman, former U.S. secretary of labor, spoke at the forum about how Moffat County should diversify its economy. He also gave his personal take on how the global economy affects a small local economy.
“Global competition is both a challenge and an opportunity,” Hofman said.
It’s a challenge if Americans want to compete for low-skill and low-paying jobs. But, it’s an opportunity if Americans want to expand their entrepreneurial economy, he said. The U.S. has an advantage in its strong infrastructure with expansive access to education and upward mobility, Hofman said.
He also homed in on local issues, mapping out how a local economy functions.
“The economy is really two economies,” he said. “Primary and derivative.”
The primary economy for Moffat County is energy. But, the derivative economy is the kind that comes from outside of the area and is where leaders should put their efforts in expanding, Hofman explained.
A way to do that is by taking stock of the existing business landscape and see where there’s need for improvements or new ideas.
“You do a very comprehensive inventory of all your business,” he said. “What do we have in this economy? What are our assets? How do we help one another?”
Hofman’s advice to local elected officials was to be bold, even in the face of failure.
“Be willing to take risks. Without that risk you don’t have the possibility of success,” he said.
Colorado state demographer Elizabeth Garner also provided insight on how local leaders can bolster business. Moffat County needs to attract more people to the area, she said.
“If you’re attracting young folks, that’s huge,” Garner said.
She pulled census data to outline positive economic drive currently happening in the county. While people are moving out of Moffat County, the population is growing in the right age brackets. Unfortunately, any decline in the local population is because of people moving away — a sign that leaders need to work on making the area an attractive place for people to move and stay, she said.
“It’s not the births minus deaths that’s bringing the population down,” Garner said. “The reason for the decline in population was due to net migration.”
And with an unresolved debt crisis still looming over the country, she said economists are nervous.
“I felt better about the economy in May than I do now,” she said.
But, she was confident that Moffat County was a great spot for small and self-starting businesses.
“Rural areas tend to have a higher percentage of proprietor jobs,” she said.
Kate Nowak, former executive director of Yampa Valley Data Partners, detailed ways in which community members can utilize YVDP’s many resources if they’re looking to start a new business or grow an existing one.
Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.