At Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, Economic Development Coordinator Diane Butler presented a biannual update.
The website launched in April 2019. Butler reported that since the launch, the site has had over 71,000 page views, 12,000 unique visitors, has 176 active employers in Grand County utilizing the site and 436 jobs have been listed. Next steps include working with the anchor employers to look at ways to continue to fund the operation of the site. “We want to scale it to a model where the employers take ownership.” Butler estimated the annual cost to be about $20,000 to keep the site refreshed and moving forward.
“What’s really happening is there have been some really cool exchanges,” said Butler. For example, Devil’s Thumb Ranch and Winter Park Resort got together and planned an appreciation night for seasonal and J1 visa employees at the end of February. “The whole concept is to make Grand County a place where employees feel connected.” She added as a side note that she’d been asked to help with the Census 2020. “This is one of the events I thought would be great to connect employee’s with the Census. Seasonal employees are more difficult to connect with.”
Working with Darcee Kissler of Grand County Higher Education, they’ve come up with a whole theme of monthly topics for 2020. “I am hoping it becomes an annual thing, get us in a routine” she said.
January was all about Marketing. For February, Freeport McMoran granted $12,000 to offer Business Plans and Planning through Dreambuilder, a 13-week online program. March will focus on Access to Capital. April will cover Regulatory License and Insurance Requirements. May’s topic is ‘Employees or Independent Contractors?’. June is ‘Right Time to Expand my Business?’. July examines Location Neutral Businesses. For August, Growing Community, Civic Leadership. September brings the annual Economic Development Summit. In October, ‘Is it time to sell your business?’. The last subject of the year is on Local Small Business Impact to our Economy.
Commissioner Rich Cimino said that Darcee had asked him to look at the limitations imposed by Grand County falling within the service area of Colorado Mountain College. Cimino said he had gotten feedback from Eric Bergman of CCI. “My interpretation is that there is no limit for other colleges coming to Grand County,” he said.
“That has been her hurdle,” said Butler. “She hears that from different colleges.”
Commissioner Merrit Linke said, “If colleges are saying no, they probably have legitimate reasons. I would like to get a definitive written statement that says these colleges can do this.”
“CMC has at times said they would release their rights,” said Butler.
“It has never been officially stated,” said Linke.
Butler said, “I will continue to talk with Darcee on this. This has been a huge hurdle in identifying other colleges. Meetings end up flat because they can’t seem to get past that.”
Linke stated, “We can start there for sure. If we can get past that, then we are good to go.”
Grand Enterprise Initiative
Butler told the commissioners she was working with USDA on another grant for the nonprofit. “I hope to get a match to what was taken from the budget.”
Commissioner Chair Kris Manguso reminded Butler that funding for GEI would be cut from the 2021 budget.
“I have to say, it is a huge integrative piece. I would hate to see us lose having that available to businesses in Grand County,” said Butler.
Location Neutral LONE Grant Program
OEDIT and DOLA have a program to attract Location Neutral Businesses, companies that can locate anywhere. Butler explained the benefits are when the companies relocate from another state, not from within, and, they are focused on rural relocation. “That is to our advantage right now.”
Butler said she had identified that they needed some lifestyle and information assets for the county to use in first introduction meetings on the state level to show draw them to Grand County. Butler said she was working with Grand Innovators to develop a piece, and could be reimbursed up to $5,000 for the effort and have distribution through the state. “There are a lot of tax incentives to relocate.” She added the businesses that benefit would have to provide primary jobs, 10 or more, on a year round basis.
Butler also stated there was increased access to Capital through Four Points Funding and the Northwest Colorado Loan Fund. She is also on the lookout for ‘Angel Investors’ – people looking to invest in our community.
CRAFT 101 & 201
The program provided by the Colorado Tourism Office is helping bring to light Grand County’s hidden gems: heritage, cultural, historical, and creative. Working with Grand County Historical Association and the Tourism Board, they are putting together a marketing plan, identifying funding sources and hope to develop an app to identify and map county tours of areas of interest.
Space to create
Butler stressed that only 9 regions get a creative designation. The project is in the stage of predevelopment at a cost of about $650K. Grand Lake contributes $20K and the rest of the funding will be through grants from entities such as DOLA, Boettcher and Daniels Funds.
“This has really been a great program for Grand County,” said County Manager Kate McIntire.
“It has been my baby for 7 years,” said Butler. “The creative economy is broad and deep in rural areas. Enhanced downtowns provide stability.” She added that the Town of Grand Lake pays the county $26K per year for her work. “I eat and breathe it because the potential is so huge.”
Butler said she had been working with nonprofit Artspace on the live/work space. “They have over 50 projects throughout the US. It has truly been amazing to work with them. They have a passion for wanting to do what’s right for the town. They are strictly nonprofit. The maker’s space could be anything from welding, pottery, all kinds of things. This opportunity ties into the Homegrown Talent Initiative in both School District’s. We are looking at creating work-based opportunities for kids to get connected with businesses and mentors to learn skill-based things. We hope we are accommodating things that the schools need. We want to make it very authentic to us, I am always looking at how it ties to Grand County.”
In closing, Butler said she was heading to meet with the Kremmling Town Manager to talk about the DOLA Main Street program. “We’ve provided the framework and I have offered to help them get things going. We’ll see where that goes.”
The Grand County Board of Commissioners formed the Grand County Economic Development Department (GCED) in June of 2012. Since then, GCED has built a thriving community of local leaders who work to retain, expand, and attract businesses in the county. If you are interested in the work of this department, contact DiAnn Butler at (970) 531-1343 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.