"In the business world, change is probably happening faster than ever before," La Plata Economic Development Alliance director Roger Zalneraitis told participants at the annual Economic Summit at Sky Ute Casino on Oct. 22.
Several other speakers echoed that thought, citing technologies that can aid businesses or up-end them.
Zalneraitis discussed the "sharing economy," such as online entities airBNB and Uber. They are upending the hotel and taxi industries the same way Amazon revolutionized book publishing.
"In Germany, Mercedes Benz is testing driverless semi trucks. What will that do to that industry?" Zalneraitis asked. No one foresaw these things coming several years ago, and "Very few of us know what will happen in the next eight years," he said.
"I'm a little bit nervous. Our goal is to create jobs," he said. "People are more risk-averse than opportunity-prone. Today is about seeing the opportunity in change."
Zalneraitis cited Alliance goals for the next five years:
. a new terminal at the Durango-La Plata Airport,
. direct flights to Houston,
. high-speed broadband internet available anywhere in the county to support work-from-home businesses,
. achieve construction of a new business park to provide space for new businesses or existing businesses that want to expand.
La Plata County is in the top one percent of counties natio-wide for people who work or run a business from home, he said.
Panelists in one of the break-out sessions talked about ways to use digital technology for record keeping and marketing.
Andy Kaynor from Mexican Tile Design in Durango described his e-commerce business model to sell colorful Mexican ceramics all around the country, rather than depending on local customers. Their first web site wasn't Google compatible, he said. They spent six months on a new web marketing site last year and quadrupled sales this year.
Steve Linn from Linnovations LLC talked about ways for a business web site to get search engine maximization with an interesting, informative, and likable web site, along with major repetition of key words, such as Mexican tiles.
"In your business, look at your processes for ways to streamline it or move it to an iPad application that gives you more and better information," Linn said.
Daron Clay touted the benefits of moving business record keeping to cloud-based applications instead of computer software that goes out of date. Debby Kruzic from a data management company also cited the benefits of digital record keeping, versus file cabinets stuffed with papers.
"You can search and retrieve documents with your smartphone without being in the office," Kruzic said. Field data can be collected on a tablet instead of on paper, and invoices can be generated automatically when a customer signs on the tablet, she said.
Linn concluded that session by saying, "Technology is only good when it actually makes your life easier. If it doesn't, don't do it."
Erin Patla talked about the psychology of change and getting people to buy into it instead of resisting it. She is with the IT management company Seccuro Group and is president of the Mountain Middle School board of directors in Durango.
Change comes because of some trigger that motivates or forces change, Patla said. Acknowledge people's reasons for resisting change, she said. "The actual transition won't be as difficult as the psychological transition," she said.
Keynote speakers were Allison Felix from the Denver branch of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, who cited improving economic statistics; and 28-year-old entrepreneur Daniel Epstein from Boulder, founder of the Unreasonable Institute, which aims to meld for-profit business practices with non-profit goals to make the world a better place.
The institute's 10-second description of its vision is, "solving the world's biggest problems by arming the entrepreneurs who can take them on with the mentorship, capital, and network to make it happen."
Epstein's theme was, "We is greater than I."
He said, "When communities come together, we can do things that we couldn't do on our own. ... I'm obsessive about the power of entrepreneurship to solve most problems. They see opportunities and solutions, not just problems. They have a bias toward action.
"I'm an optimist," Epstein said. "I think the world is in a better position than it's ever been." As for the name Unreasonable Institute, he cited George Bernard Shaw: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man changes it."
Brad Tafoya, chairman of the Economic Development Alliance board, cited Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning as an example of persisting and triumphing through change. Manning had an injury and surgery several years ago that could have left him unable to throw, but he didn't quit, Tafoya said. Manning could have walked away after the Broncos' Super Bowl disaster this year, but he didn't, and now he has claimed the career record for most touchdown passes.
Tafoya urged businesses to face change as Manning did.