Rural America mulled |

Rural America mulled

Christina M. Currie

Less than two months after the Colorado Legislature created a committee to study rural issues, Club 20 officials have put their two cents in.

“I congratulate the Legislature for creating this committee to explore the unique issues surrounding rural economic development,” Club 20 Executive Director Reeves Brown said. “It’s important for us to recognize the interdependent nature of the state’s various geographic areas.”

Reeves testified before the committee earlier this month on behalf of Club 20.

In June, the Legislature created a 12-member committee to study the dynamics of rural America and its effect on the economy.

“Technological, political and economic changes have brought a profound transformation to agriculture and other renewable resource industries and to the rural communities dependent on them,” the bill reads.

The committee is made up of five members of the senate, five members of the house, one member of the public who is a county commissioner from a rural county and a member of a rural city council or town board. Serving at large are an Otero County Commissioner and the mayor of Winter Park.

The committee will evaluate several factors including:

  • Availability and quality of jobs in rural services and manufacturing
  • Difficulties recruiting and retaining professionals.
  • Whether improved connections — transportation and communication — between urban and rural areas could improve the rural economy.
  • The hardships caused to small businesses and family farms by the federal and state death tax and the economic benefits of repealing the death tax.

A county or municipality of less than 15,000 is considered rural.

Reeves thinks rural and urban communities no longer can expect to prosper independently — that all must work together to promote the economic health of the entire state.

“While the Front Range may be the economic hub of the state, our outlying rural areas are the spokes that support that hub.”

Reeves said rural Colorado remains dependent on agriculture and natural resources and changes to those industries have profound impacts to rural economy.

He specifically noted the energy boom “of unprecedented proportions” that Northwest Colorado soon will be facing.

“Communities in Northwestern Colorado are wrestling with the challenge of balancing the economic potential of this energy boom with the ability to sustain healthy communities for future generations,” he said.

The committee will hear from other multi-county agencies such as Progressive 15 and Action 22.

The committee’s job is to make recommendations for legislation.

A written report of the committee’s findings must be completed by Nov. 15, 2005.

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