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MEEKER | The much contested Meeker Adventure Center seems to have fizzled out after a second request for qualifications for a general operator failed to return any official responses. However, that doesn’t mean the process hasn’t created forward momentum that could greatly benefit the community’s economic development goals.
“It’s just going to take longer,” said Kelby Bosshardt of Better City, the consulting firm contracted by the towns and county to further economic development. “Interested parties have described a ‘walk before you run’ progression. They haven’t thrown out the idea, but it would be taken at a more long-term trajectory because of the lack of the public funding component,” he said.
The work Better City has accomplished has generated progress that can be used to attract other business opportunities and industries. Two companies which started working in the Flat Tops last year as a result of Better City outreach on the project have expressed a desire to return and increase their services.
“This is new business and new people coming to the area as a direct result of the adventure center,” Bosshardt said.
With the lackluster response for a general operator, Rio Blanco County Economic Development Coordinator Katelin Cook has proposed a “pivot” to the plan, which would redirect the energy and momentum from the Meeker Adventure Center to the creation of a Meeker outdoor recreation incubator, a way for all the parties who expressed interest in being service providers for the proposed Adventure Center to expand and grow their current businesses and a way to bring in new providers, and potentially an educational component with CNCC or Colorado Mountain College.
“We need to take advantage of and capitalize on the momentum that was made by Better City. Through all of this the state is seeing Meeker. We need to make it keep going,” said Mayor Regas Halandras.
“There’s not a $10 million price tag with this and I think that will be a lot more palatable for the community,” said MURA chair Shawn Bolton
The MURA board also talked about the housing component in the Better City proposal. The board asked Better City to continue pursuing solutions to the shortage of “first-time homebuyer turn-key option” housing, potentially by using the URA incentives to encourage developers to come in and build homes and businesses.
The board also encouraged Better City to reach out to broadband-related tech companies and industry.
Bosshardt said they will present a revised scope of work for 2018 to determine their priorities.