Towns work on development

Meetings were held in Rangely and Meeker last week to discuss Gov. Hickenlooper’s Bottom Up Economic Development strategy. The governor has asked all counties to update or develop their economic plans using input from local citizens, businesses and other interested stakeholders.
More than a dozen people attended the meeting in Rangely and more than 30 met in Meeker to give their input.
The meetings were moderated by Meeker Chamber of Commerce director Katelin Cook and Joe Carter from the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA).
Information gathered from an online public survey, the public meetings and comments will be used to identify up to five economic development goals and strategies for the county, which will be combined and incorporated into 14 regional plans to assist in developing an overall statewide economic development plan.
“I am working on compiling all of our survey results and discussion topics and will submit our concerns to the governor’s Office of Economic Development by Friday, April 15,” Cook said. “Hopefully we will have regional results in about 60 days.”
“The concerns are similar in Meeker and Rangely, with a lot of focus on oil and gas,” Carter said. “Both communities recognize the need to diversify their economies, push to amend the education finance act and to keep money generated locally in the local communities.”
The six discussion points at the local meetings were:
n Regulatory/Permitting issues
Gain public and governmental understanding of regulatory/permitting permits, streamlining the implementation process and remove overlapping regulations.
n State Agency Policies
Gain a user-friendly approach by incorporating coordination between state agencies concerning policies, removing “urban” regulations from the “rural” setting and making a more customized process for our county.
n Returning Severance Tax and Federal Mineral Lease to impacted county
Return a larger portion of these dollars to the impacted communities so they may offset the “impact” placed on their communities.
n Build our Economic Base and Support Existing Businesses
Diversify our economic base to reduce the boom/bust cycle, encourage business growth by providing a “business friendly” climate, ultimately creating new jobs and reducing the amount of sales tax leakage into neighboring communities.  Allow businesses more access to capital and lower property taxes by making the Gallagher Amendment a “localized” decision. Educate people and businesses about what is available.
n Lack of Affordable Housing/Cost of Doing Business
Provide affordable housing options so we can entice the workforce to remain in our county, ultimately bringing in additional businesses. Reduce the cost of doing business in our state through minimizing workers compensation premiums and reducing the property tax burden on businesses.
n Consititutional Reform to Amend our Tax Structure
Fix our tax structure so more money can be allocated back to our communities in the way of K-12 education.
“I’m encouraged the governor is taking on this initiative,” Rangely Town Manager Peter Brixius said. “Legislation is critical to this. Legislators, state directors, employees and the citizens of Colorado have to agree to limit regulations and take a common sense approach to state policy with local advocacy, so we don’t feel dictated to from Denver. That’s what the governor is trying to eliminate.”
Brixius went on to say, “These strategies and goals are nothing new, they have been talked about for years and are the right ones to talk about. The rubber meets the pavement in the way the information is dealt with; is it ignored or embraced? If all believe like the governor does, we can reduce the size of government.”
“I feel like we have momentum,” Cook said. “The concerns of Rangely and Meeker residents are very similar, which tells me that creating a county-wide plan is not a far-fetched idea.”