IGNACIO – State officials and community leaders said Ignacio residents will be the key to success as the town tries to grow its economy through the arts.
State officials visited Ignacio for the first time last week to offer support and resources as part of Colorado’s Rural Technical Assistance Program. In August, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade awarded Ignacio a place in two RTAP programs, one of which focuses on economic development through the arts. But to bring arts-based revenue to town, local leaders said they need the public’s help.
“We’ve got to really engage our community,” said Sharon Craig, a town trustee on the RTAP award steering committee. Input from Ignacio residents would give the committee direction to steer the town’s growth.
“We need that input,” she said. “We want it to be about the community.”
Arts and culture industries add $14.4 billion to the Colorado economy, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s 4.4% of the total state gross domestic product – more than transportation, mining and agriculture individually.
Through RTAP, Colorado Creative Industries, a division of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and The Creativity Lab, a nonprofit partner of OEDIT, will help Ignacio tap into that market. By the end of the award process, the town will have a plan to market its unique identity, grow its creative economy and support its wider economy.
“Are you the place that people are talking about?” said Bill Marino, co-founder of The Creativity Lab, during a stakeholder luncheon Friday. The town should try to be memorable so people passing through spread the word and invite others to visit, he said.
The luncheon took place during the nonprofit and state division’s multi-day site visit, an important first step in the RTAP process. Local business owners, school district representatives, town board members and others gathered to hear the Creativity Lab’s presentation. Colorado Creative Industries also presented the town with a certificate at the Ignacio Harvest Festival during the visit.
“What it really comes down to is shared vision and shared leadership,” said Margaret Hunt, executive director of CCI. “It’s clear to me that that’s happening here.”
RTAP could also help Ignacio complete the prerequisite steps it needs to become a certified creative district through Colorado Creative Industries. Although towns don’t need to be certified to become a creative district, the state certification provides additional marketing, funding and technical resources.
“(Ignacio) is so well positioned for the path that it’s on,” Marino said. “It has a story to tell. It’s got momentum that’s building. All that’s going to be required is people working together along the way to get there.”
Still, this is just the beginning. After the luncheon, Craig said the most overwhelming part is trying to choose how to approach the creative economy planning process when there are so many things to think about.
Right now, the steering committee’s focus is the community dinner Nov. 7, which they are planning, in part, to gauge residents’ preferences, she said. The steering committee has to build a road map, and to do that, it needs community members to tell local leaders what they want and how they want Ignacio to grow in the future.
“We want to work together to create more business,” she said, “but also use that art component to beautify our town, to make it somewhere special for our residents.”