Region 9 offers partnership on Bayfield economic development plan

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 5:18 PM

The Region 9 Economic Development District wants to help Bayfield ramp up long-stalled economic development efforts by creating a town vision for itself.

Region 9 Assistant Director Laura Lewis Marchino made the offer at the Feb. 18 town board meeting.

She noted the economic development strategic plan done by the town in 2008 and an effort to revisit it about a year ago.

Back in summer 2008, a citizens group worked on an economic development plan, including strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) to prospects for economic development. Those were broken into things the town can control, and things outside of town control.

The plan was finalized in winter 2008-2009 as the national economy was in free-fall. It included goals and action steps.

The plan was reviewed at a meeting in September 2012. Town Manager Chris La May suggested then that the goals and action steps needed to be prioritized and pared down substantially to be more realistic.

In May last year, the feeling of trustees was that it was too soon to go hiring a consultant to do a Bayfield market study. They were responding to a proposal from a Front Range consultant to do a study for $7,500.

Trustee Michelle Nelson objected then that there was no vision for the town's future. Trustee Rachel Davenport didn't want the town to do a study that would be out of date by the time the town got around to implementing it.

Mayor Rick Smith suggested a renewed effort to get the community involved in economic development discussions.

The town had $10,000 in the 2013 budget for economic development.

Marchino told trustees last week, "It's really hard to move forward on economic development without a vision. We'd like to help with that, do a vision meeting with the community, meet with key stakeholders like the fire department, the chamber (of commerce). This would take existing information and see what's missing.

The community vision "needs to be really compelling, she said, comparing it to the slogan, "Please make me the person my dog thinks I am.

Nelson said, "I think we need it.

Smith agreed. "When we decide what we want to be when we grow up, every decision should support that, he said. "We need help. The vision should be on everyone's mind. Everybody knows where we are headed.

Marchino said some preliminary work is needed. "The meeting is only as good as the people who attend, she said.

Smith said, "I have the faith in this community that we'll come up with what fits.

Nelson said the chamber should be involved.

Trustee Ed Morlan, Marchino's boss at Region 9, suggested creating "a focus group of outside agitators to keep us on track.

Region 9 provides services to 17 government entities in five counties. Business loans are Region 9's largest program.