By Adam Shake
In November 2015, Estes Park EDC and the Town of Estes Park completed the Estes Valley Economic Development Strategy in partnership with their consultant, Avalanche Consulting. 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.
We created a report on 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. Those meetings take place on:
1:00 to 2:30 pm in the Estes Valley Library Hondius Room (Business Owners and Entrepreneurs)
3:00 to 4:30 pm in the Estes Valley Library Hondius Room (Community-Wide Engagement)
8:30 to 9:45 am in the Town of Estes Park Town Board Room (Community-Wide Engagement)
10:00 to 11:15 am in the Town of Estes Park Town Board Room (Capacity Building with Business Groups)
The first of this series of columns looked at Infrastructure. In this column, we’d like to share some information about our Workforce and Education meeting. The three major topics of discussion were workforce housing, education and childcare. These themes helped the consultant, Avalanche consulting, organize their recommendations for strategic action.
The Estes Valley Economic Development Strategy, under the heading Workforce & Education, states that “The Estes Valley attracts, retains, and trains a skilled workforce that is supported by a mix of housing options and multigenerational community resources. High demand for housing and limited supply have raised housing costs over the years to the point that home ownership is out of reach for many residents and workers, particularly in middle-income professions. These limitations have created distinct challenges for local businesses and institutions when trying to attract and retain talented employees critical to community health – including nurses, police officers, and even young, skilled professionals. High costs and limited availability of housing, alongside inadequate childcare options and other concerns, lead many working professionals, particularly those with families, to seek new employment opportunities in other communities, creating high turnover and costs for local businesses.”
The Estes Valley also needs to invest in the future workforce by establishing education programs that prepare local students for jobs in the community and attract the best and brightest from around the country and world to new opportunities.”
There have been a number of workforce housing projects approved since 2018 in the wake of code changes designed to incentivize workforce or attainable housing. Some are under construction, and there are also projects likely to file in 2019. As a resort community, we have focused our efforts on multi-family and workforce-oriented housing, and major organizations are becoming engaged.
Educationally, there are a number of specific programs being developed in the Estes Valley to serve the vocational needs of Estes Valley high school students. The Estes Park School District is implementing the CareerWise program in the fall of 2019. https://www.careerwisecolorado.org/the-program/why-it-works/
In reference to child care, Estes Park EDC was asked to organize and sponsor a Childcare Services Committee, bringing together key stakeholders to begin strategic work on improving access to child care. With active help from the committee, we raised over $40,000 for a Childcare Needs Assessment, partnering with EVICS as fiscal agent for the project. We completed the Childcare Needs Assessment in February 2018. Estes Early Childhood Education formed in 2018, and is putting the pieces in place for developing a childcare center plan and conducting a capital campaign to fund it.
Not every workforce housing project is still going forward. The 70-plus acre Fish Hatchery Road property owned by the Town of Estes Park was put on hold in the summer of 2018 and seems unlikely to proceed based on substantial infrastructure costs. As well, the Dry Gulch property and Twin Owls Motor Lodge rezonings did not move forward as planned.
When it comes to education and childcare, challenges appear to center on the theme of greater alignment and communication among key stakeholders as well as funding for childcare facilities and skilled caregivers.
The meeting participants also identified new possible opportunities that reflect current community needs like:
1. A source of dedicated and continuous funding for all these causes.
2. Better stakeholder communication and messaging as well as long term strategies.
3. The ability of employers to assist employees with workforce housing, educational and childcare programs.
4. Round trip transportation to/from Ft. Collins, Loveland… and the Estes Valley and within the Estes Valley for work as well as access to services.
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.