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Bayfield town staff, businesses focus on economic development
5/2/2008 By: Carole McWilliams
Several community meetings focused on economic development have already happened in Bayfield this year, but the town’s official new economic development effort started Tuesday.
Town trustees hosted the meeting of around 20 interested community members from inside and outside town limits.
The Pine River Youth
Baseball League started play last week.
Colt Salazar of the Bayfield A's hit
this nice drive on Monday night. Colt is
the son of Laura Sossaman and Brian Salazar.
"I don't think there has ever been a deliberate coordinated effort to create economic development in our area, not just Bayfield," Town Manager Justin Clifton said.
This new process will create an ongoing committee representing as many community interests as possible to focus on economic development and bring together previously separate efforts.
The group will look at specific policy recommendations, Clifton said. He did a quick run-through of goals listed in the town’s 2005 comprehensive plan, including the extent to which they have been achieved.
One of those is for the town to capture 50 percent of local spending. "We are way off," Clifton said. "This is tough. Without sales tax, we still have the same demands for services and only a fraction of the resources."
Bayfield has a grocery store, but the town retains only about 26 percent of local grocery spending, he said. "I'm confident our capture is far below 50 percent."
Participant Brad Elder, developer of Dove Ranch, noted that many locals say they want more shopping opportunities in Bayfield, but when it happens, they don’t support those businesses.
Teresa Malone, a local consultant and grant writer, noted the turnover of small businesses. They need more front-end help to survive, she said.
Casey Cook noted small businesses can't pay people what they need to live here unless they arrive in the county "with a fistful of money." Gas development has taken the blue-collar labor pool, he said.
"We hear that all the time," Clifton said.
County Commissioner Wally White added, “It’s not just blue collar. It's across the board." The county has trouble, and Fort Lewis College has trouble hiring entry-level professors because of housing costs, he said.
Discussion included the industrial overlay zone for Gem Village that the county commissioners approved in the early 1990s.
Southwest Ag owner Dennis Hillyer said that means, “You don't have to go through an eight to 10-month approval. If there is space there, you can open a business.”
But he complained that county planning staff have blocked any efforts to expand the overlay zone. “It just isn't allowed to happen. I haven't heard any reason why. There could be 35 acres added on the south side, areas on the east. It’s a place for a start-up business that doesn’t have a lot of capital to incubate.”
Town administrative intern Jack McGroder introduced a 12-step program for economic development. It stresses private-public partnerships, with the private intentionally listed first because “It’s the private sector that moves markets forward.”
The public sector role is to make doing the right things easy, he said. Despite the national economic situation, he predicted people will continue moving to La Plata County and to Bayfield.
Another public sector role is economic incentives to recruit business. That can include fee waivers. The town has to decide what prospective businesses will be offered incentives, and what incentives are appropriate without causing future problems.
Don’t forget businesses that are already here, Elder said. Durango has lost businesses that were unable to expand there, he said.
McGroder and Clifton stressed that this economic development effort must include revitalization of the Mill Street area.
They sent participants away with lots of information to study, with the hope that most participants will come to the next meeting with specific ideas of what the town needs for economic development.
McGroder said the group that is going to be formed must have funding, and it must be able to make independent decisions without having to get approval first from participating groups like the town board or Bayfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
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