Glenwood Springs stepping up economic development efforts | PostIndependent.com

Glenwood Springs stepping up economic development efforts

Glenwood Springs is making moves to broaden the city's economic base and help drive several redevelopment efforts that are in the early planning stages.

Recently, City Council took a significant step toward diversifying the local economy by officially forming a new nonprofit arm of the city, the Glenwood Springs Economic Development Corp.

While the specific governing rules, duties and powers of the organization are still to be determined, the current council has had economic development as a top priority for some time.

"This is long overdue, and I'm glad to see us moving in this direction," City Councilor Kathryn Trauger said as council voted unanimously in September to form the new entity.

"Glenwood does need to diversify its economy," she said. "We have a strong tourism base, and we continue to support that. But we also need to try to diversify, and this is a way to kick start that."

The city is working with consultants on an extensive master planning effort that was funded by a $200,000 federal EPA Brownfield Area-Wide Planning Grant awarded earlier this year.

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One goal is create a strategy to push forward the river confluence area redevelopment plan, including finding uses for the city's former sewer plant property.

A broader goal, however, is to tie that area to several other key redevelopment focal points surrounding downtown.

Those include the Sixth and Seventh Street corridors that are expected to undergo an extensive makeover once the new Grand Avenue bridge is complete. Also part of the master planning effort are two key properties near Two Rivers Park — the Colorado Department of Transportation facility at Centennial Drive and Devereux Road, and the privately owned Holly Quarry site that is to eventually become part of the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park improvements.

Once the areawide plan takes form, the economic development corporation could be called upon to establish public-private partnerships to achieve development goals, weigh potential property transactions, and help attract businesses to fill any newly created commercial spaces, City Attorney Karl Hanlon explained.

Depending on the form that entity takes, Hanlon said it can be a more-focused way to take the burden off city government and still carry out those functions.

Earlier this year, Jenn Ooton was promoted to the newly created city position of community and economic development director and assistant city manager.

A key component of the areawide planning process will be to conduct what's called a market gap analysis to help determine the types of businesses or start-up ventures that could enhance the local economy, Ooton said.

"That is something we're really interested in having in our hands to help guide economic development in the future," she said.

Later this month, consultants from Stromberg/Garrigan & Associates who are working on the areawide plan will be in town to conduct focus groups and begin formulating a strategy to tie the various redevelopment plans together.

For the time being, City Council will sit as the board of directors for the economic development corporation. Council is expected to review draft bylaws and other details about how the corporation will operate later this fall.

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