Business of doing business
Residents mull ways to support commerce
Armed with the knowledge that nationally, 80 percent of new jobs are generated by existing businesses, residents from throughout Northwest Colorado gathered Wednesday to brainstorm ways to support, enhance and sustain local businesses.
The focus was on Northwest Colorado producers, which included farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and artisans.
More than 30 people met, representing government, small business, economic development and lenders.
“We’re here today to start. This is a process that will take a lot of effort,” said Audrey Danner, director of Yampa Valley Partners, one of the event’s sponsors.
The goal was to identify the needs of producers and set concrete plans to help meet those needs.
“The point of today is to take the ideas, energy and enthusiasm and bring some shape and form to them,” said Winnie Delliquadri, with the city of Steamboat Springs and the Yampa Valley Economic Development Council.
After six hours of discussion, breakout sessions and prioritizing, five projects were established: identifying Northwest Colorado producers, tying products to cultural heritage tourism, developing a Northwest Colorado brand, creating a regional marketing plan and cooperative marketing.
A steering committee made up of participants in Wednesday’s brainstorming session will take the first steps in making that happen.
Getting to those goals took work.
First, participants identified producers’ needs, which focused on marketing, communication among those with similar products, transportation of people and products, profitability, access to and ability to use technology, and a skilled labor force.
Among the area’s assets, quality of life was ranked near the top with some saying a need exists to take advantage of the area’s heritage in marketing.
“If you want true Americana, you need to buy it from a place that’s meaningful,” Craig resident Bernie Rose said. “You’re buying something that represents American history made by an American producer.
“The value is in the mentality. The thought of ‘I’m buying a piece of Americana as opposed to buying a piece of China.’ The West is a frame of mind, not a place,” he said.
But to get to that point, small producers face many challenges. Among them are financing, marketing their products and establishing trust among others about product quality.
“It all kind of comes back to marketing,” said Kaye Jacobson, regional director of the Small Business Development Center.
Making local products affordable to customers on a global scale was another challenge.
“It comes down to economies of scale,” Routt County extension agent C.J. Mucklow said. “It costs too much to do business here, which makes it hard to be competitive on a global scale.”
Starting locally and growing to a national and global scale seemed to be the consensus.
Many talked about educating consumers about what was available and encouraging them to shop regionally.
“We don’t have a good internal market for our products,” Steamboat Springs Municipal Judge Paul Sachs said. “Then, we need a mechanism to sell to a global marketplace.”
The steering committee will set the ball in motion to survey what’s being produced locally and see whether those producers want to help an effort to enhance their businesses.
That same committee also will work toward meeting some of the other goals set.
A complete synopsis of the meeting soon will be available online at http://www.yampavalley.info.
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