Garfield County agrees to give $50K to economic development group

John Stroud
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County commissioners on Monday doubled the county’s financial support for a Rifle-based economic development organization that continues to expand its reach throughout the western part of the county.

The Garfield Board of County Commissioners voted 3-0 to grant $50,000 to the Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp. for 2012. The county gave $25,000 to the group’s efforts last year.

The county will require evidence that the same dollar amount is being matched by private sector businesses. Quarterly progress reports must also be provided to the BOCC.

“We are always looking to increase the number of entities who partner with us and invest in our organization,” RREDC board president Michael Langhorne said in a presentation to the commissioners at their regular Monday meeting.

The organization has been working to expand beyond the Rifle area to include the region from New Castle to Parachute. In three years, the RREDC’s budget has grown from $50,000 to $150,000.

A third of its funding now comes from about two dozen participating businesses. Another third comes from the municipalities of Rifle, New Castle and Parachute, as well as various grants, Langhorne said.

With the county’s commitment, the RREDC will be able to meet its budget goal for this year.

Last year, the organization was instrumental in working with the city of Rifle to develop a commercial center where the new seven-screen Brenden Movie Theater is located.

Approximately $2.5 million went to Garfield County construction contractors working on that project, and the movie theater is projected to generate about $100,000 annually in sales taxes and lease revenue for the city, Langhorne said.

The commercial center includes three additional pads that are shovel-ready for other new businesses to locate there as well, he said.

Also last year, the RREDC expanded its services to New Castle and Parachute, designed a website to help attract new businesses to the region, assisted 16 businesses looking to relocate to the county, and provided start-up assistance for 11 local businesses.

Among the organization’s priorities for this coming year are to:

• Attract higher-paying “primary” jobs.

• Expand regional marketing efforts.

• Develop and review municipal and countywide incentive programs.

• Foster a cooperative approach for businesses looking to expand or relocate in the area.

• Provide business expansion and retention services.

• Seek additional funding opportunities and investor membership.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said he would like the group to step up its efforts to attract primary jobs to the county, as well as retaining existing businesses that provide those types of jobs.

RREDC Manager Julie Bjurstrom said the organization has a goal to visit with 25 primary employers in 2012, and has special committees working on business retention and expansion.

“We need to have that conversation with our businesses to find out if they are productive and profitable, what they need to expand, and how we can help them do that,” Bjurstrom said.

Economic development in general was also the topic of a brief county commissioners’ discussion at the Feb. 6 BOCC meeting. Commissioner Mike Samson expressed concerns with what he referred to as the current “shotgun” approach to funding economic development within the county.

He explained, saying that rather than considering economic development-related funding requests on a case-by-case basis, the county should develop a more organized effort.

Commissioners agreed to invite representatives of the various economic development groups now working from Carbondale to Parachute to discuss a more organized approach.

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