RBC receives two Blueprint 2.0 initiatives from state office of economic development

Representatives from the Colorado Office of Economic Development, Department of Local Affairs, Rio Blanco County Commissioners, Meeker and Rangely chambers of commerce and the economic development team met Monday in Meeker. Niki Turner photo

RBC | Meeker played host Monday to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) for a regional economic development meeting, a site visit to Headhunters Bowstrings and the announcement of this year’s Blueprint 2.0 awards.
Blueprint 2.0 is “the evolution” of an initial program started 6.5 years ago by the governor’s office that provides a “bottom up” approach to economic development which enables communities to envision themselves as economically vibrant and thriving through grants, resources and support. Rio Blanco County received three Blueprint 2.0 grants last year.
Counties were asked to demonstrate collaboration, strong local leadership and solid support of the initiatives they chose to pursue.
Commissioner Jeff Rector introduced Stephanie Copeland, executive director of OEDIT, to the group.
“The Rio Blanco team worked with our program through the tourism development and promotion to develop a tourism action plan. The plan focuses on the county’s world-class OHV trail system, family-friendly travel itineraries and marketing their assets.”
Seventeen selected communities received 2.0 awards, announced Monday. Rio Blanco County received the coworking space 101 award with Sterling and Delta County, and the tourism promotion and development award with Leadville.
According to the OEDIT website, “Coworking spaces have become a progressively popular and increasingly vital alternative to the traditional workplace. These shared collaborative spaces have shown measurable successes in attracting, retaining and engaging the ever-growing population of location neutral workers.”
“For the Coworking Space 101 initiative, OEDIT will partner with Proximity Space, the owner and operator of multiple successful coworking spaces in Colorado and who’s own initiatives have created a network of connected coworking spaces throughout the State. OEDIT and Proximity Space will host a first of its kind forum where community leaders and potential owners can interact with current coworking spaces and discuss benefits, costs, challenges, and lessons learned from operating a coworking space, and how communities can apply these best practices.”
Montrose, Ridgway, Frisco, Grand Junction and Telluride are among some of the coworking projects already established.
Grand Junction’s coworking space, dubbed “The Factory,” is providing a tech hub for the community.
“Techies beget more techies,” said Kristi Pollard, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership. Her office, she said, is working to appeal to millennials and learning what amenities are necessary to attract them to a place.
The tourism promotion and development award, continued for 2017, will provide the county with resources, consultants and guidance to further increase tourism opportunities for the area.
According to Copeland, economic recovery after a recession has long depended on new business formation, but between 2010-14, the number of new businesses dropped, and the percentage of new businesses that were formed were concentrated in urban areas. Blueprint 2.0 is working “to create more support networks for business formation across the state.”
The Rio Blanco Broadband project was mentioned repeatedly in the meeting as a significant factor in the economic future of the county.
“It is critical infrastructure,” said Irv Halter, executive director of DOLA. Halter compared the equal distribution of broadband access in today’s world to having fair and equal access to electricity a few decades ago.
Katelin Cook, Rio Blanco County economic development coordinator, said her department is continuing to strive for economic diversification, including building the tourism industry, improving access to the river, development of the shooting sports industry and expanding the aviation program at CNCC, as well as seeking location neutral workers who would benefit from the county’s broadband access.