Glenwood chamber, council consider city’s economic development needs |

Glenwood chamber, council consider city’s economic development needs

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Some Glenwood Springs elected officials and business leaders think the city needs to pursue economic development more aggressively.The idea is raising questions about just how much should be done to try to attract new businesses at a time when existing ones are having trouble finding employees, and affordable housing for workers is scarce.City Council member Kris Chadwick broached the idea of an economic development program when council met last week to review its goals for the year.”What are other towns doing to attract businesses? What are they doing to try to get the kind of stores they want? Do we need to compete on that level?” she asked.Chadwick is council’s representative on the board of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, which discussed the issue at length during a retreat last week. Chamber president Marianne Virgili said she expects the board will set a goal for this year of at least examining the question of economic development, and how Glenwood Springs might want to go about it.”Of course it’s a very complex issue,” she said.A chief complication is the ongoing labor and housing shortage. Council member Joe O’Donnell pointed to the city’s continuing difficulties trying to find a new parks and recreation director after the previous one left last year. He noted that the private sector is facing the same challenges as the city itself in filling job openings.”How can we bring in businesses if we can’t staff them?” he said.Council member Chris McGovern said she thinks a lot of people would be interested in moving to Glenwood and opening “mom-and-pop” type businesses here.”They want to work for themselves. They don’t want to work for a corporation. We’re perfect for them,” she said.Said O’Donnell, “They can’t live here. That’s my issue.”Virgili said affordable housing needs to be a part of any economic development discussion, along with what can be done not only to attract new businesses but to help those already here.”As a chamber we are very concerned about the health of our existing businesses first and foremost,” she said.The city already has a program in place to rebate development fees for both existing businesses that expand, and for new businesses. The companies are able to recoup fees by seeking a rebate of up to 20 percent of their annual city sales tax bill for five consecutive years.”We are very aggressive in letting businesses know about that” program, Virgili said.She is interested in what other types of incentives Glenwood Springs can provide. She said it probably will take a public/private partnership to encourage economic development.Mayor Bruce Christensen said the effort probably would require ongoing work by either a paid employee or consultant.He sees places around Glenwood, such as the south end of town, Highway 6 and the Glenwood Springs Mall area, that could benefit from redevelopment.”We need to be looking at the big picture. … We ought to have a 20-year economic plan for the community, or 10-year or whatever,” he said.Virgili said it’s important for the city to diversify its economy, which now is comprised largely of a service industry that tends to be lower-paying.”We would like to see our young people from Glenwood be able to go out to college and come back and be able to earn a good living” working in a profession, she said.For its part, the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 is planning to hear from elected officials, chamber representatives and others April 21 about how it can best prepare its students to meet local companies’ labor needs.”I think everybody’s feeling that pinch and I think the school district … recognizes the need to prepare kids to succeed after high school,” said district superintendent Judy Haptonstall.The meeting is targeting representatives from all the communities the district serves, from Basalt to Glenwood Springs, and is open to the public. It will be held starting at 8:30 a.m. at Roaring Fork High School.Haptonstall said the district also has been working with the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce to partner with businesses to provide internships and mentorships to “get kids out in the community and have them sort of learn what this world is like and what skills they need.”Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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