By Estes Park EDC
In November 2015, Estes Park EDC and the Town of Estes Park received the Estes Valley Economic Development Strategy. The strategy contained research and the results of extensive community outreach to present a set of recommendations to help implement a vision for sustaining both our economic vitality and quality of life. The Economic Strategy contains a playbook for progress, and is meant to guide future discussion on strategic priorities.
After three years, it is a good time to assess our community’s progress. In January and February of this year, Estes Park EDC held four update meetings on four different themes found in the 2015 Economic Strategy. The themes included Infrastructure, Business Climate, Workforce & Education and Entrepreneurship & Innovation. These themes helped the consultant, Avalanche consulting, organize their recommendations for strategic action. We created a report on each of the four meetings to share with Avalanche Consulting for their review. Avalanche Consulting will be back in Estes Park on April 22nd and 23rd to meet with Estes Park EDC and community stakeholders to present a report card on our progress. Watch for an announcement of the public engagement meetings on those dates.
In this column, we’d like to share some information on our first meeting - Infrastructure.
The Estes Valley Economic Development Strategy, under the heading Physical Infrastructure, states that “Before the Estes Valley can expect businesses to invest in the community, it must invest in itself. Building an economy that employs residents and offers services and products year round will require investing in the community and creating a supportive environment for primary businesses. Because high-speed broadband connectivity is essential for almost all businesses in the modern economy, the Broadband Initiative has been one of the top priorities for the Estes Valley.” The Community Center, and other infrastructure projects will all help build a more resilient year-round economy and support targeted businesses.
Recognizing our successes is important to gauge our community’s progress. Broadband and an Estes Valley Community Center were both listed as priority projects under Infrastructure in 2015. The Estes Valley Community Center has been completed and is fully operational. While Town Utility Broadband implementation hasn’t occurred yet, it’s well underway. More information on the project can be found at www.estes.org/broadband.
Not every project identified in 2015 is still going forward. Two of the priority projects listed in the 2015 report have been cancelled. Estes Park Health is no longer pursuing a Wellness Center and likewise, EPIC is no longer pursing a Performing Arts Center. There were multiple reasons for this but the overriding cause seems to be the challenge of finding sources of money, funding and contributions. As a community, we can’t expect every proposed project to move forward to completion.
The meeting participants, which included 22 community members and stakeholders, also identified new projects that may have been excluded from the 2015 discussion. The results reflect current community needs that are a priority in 2019 and include things like:
1. Implementation of flood mitigation measures
2. Parking and transportation
3. Investing in a new childcare facility
4. Winter sports development
5. Implementing smart cities technology
We thank all the participants and the facilitators for helping us efficiently gather and present information from a wide variety of projects. Accordingly, we also thank James Carr, Russ Nehrig and Susan Thomas who volunteered as facilitators. All three work with Restorative Justice and are available to facilitate meetings.
Part two of these articles will provide an update on the status of Business Climate.
To see the full report go to www.estesparkedc.com/estes-park-edc-research-papers