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EDCC holds Regional Economic Development Forum in Eastern, CO

Eastern, CO Positioned Well to Cultivate a Precision Agricultural Cluster and a Skills-based Labor Pool

Attendees at Regional Forum on March 12, 2019

Hugo, CO – On Tuesday, March 12 the Economic Development Council of Colorado (EDCC) held its Regional Economic Development Forum, focusing on planning regions 1, 5 & 6, including Logan, Sedgwick, Phillips, Morgan, Washington, Elbert, Lincoln, Kit Carson, Cheyenne, Crowley, Kiowa, Otero, Bent, Prowers, and Baca Counties. These regional forums have given the statewide organization and its members an in-depth view of the economic challenges and opportunities facing our communities around the state.

Over 130 statewide economic development stakeholders were in attendance and engaged with experts on different ways that communities can utilize their assets, create investment interest, build a skilled labor workforce, build industry to support that workforce—all while helping to expand their local economies.

“The close proximity allowed us to further expand our knowledge and partnerships while providing economic development to our own region. We reestablished connections and formed new partnerships across the region through the planning and hosting of this event and were able to take what we gleaned back to our communities. It allowed more of us to attend, because it was in our own backyard, which kept money invested locally where it will turn more and generate greater benefits to us all. The messages shared had meaning to us all in our work,” remarked members of the forum’s steering committee.

Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera was joined by Hoyt Skabelund, Division CEO of Banner Health’s Rural Hospitals and Kevin Stansbury, CEO of Lincoln Community Hospital and Care Center, to discuss the economic challenges of rural hospitals. From declining younger populations, to high percentages of Medicare and Medicaid patients, to aging infrastructure, rural hospitals are experiencing extreme economic disadvantages over their urban counterparts. The panel discussed ways in which the rural hospitals can be supported through thoughtful regulation as well as creative measures to help attract, retain, and grow talent to support the rural hospitals.

“I personally know that all roads lead back to health. Health care is not in a silo. Agriculture is part of it; if someone lives in a food desert they might not be as healthy as someone with access to fresh produce. We can collaborate to make Coloradans healthier and to save them money on healthcare,” commented Lt. Governor Primavera.

Lt. Governor Primavera addressed attendees

A theme that came out of the day’s sessions was “building sustainable communities.” By harnessing relationships with neighboring communities and collaborating on marketing efforts, communities will be able to fill in their asset gaps and proximity to markets. Regionalism is a powerful tool, that if practiced properly, can help communities grow beyond their barriers.

The theme continued as a panel of local experts discussed the potential for the eastern region to become the center for the next wave of the modern agricultural revolution, Precision Agriculture. Needed to help deploy this type of industry is a skilled labor force, critical broadband and cell service, and education around the industry. Speakers representing 21st Century Equipment, Roenbaugh Schwalb, Lamar Community College, Colorado Rural Workforce Consortium, Skillful – A Markle Initiative, Viaero Wireless, and SECOM discussed the opportunities and challenges with the build out of this industry. Along with the deployment of the Opportunity Zones Program, this industry has the potential to attract entrepreneurs and investors to the region. 

The newly appointed executive director for the Colorado Office of Economic Development, Betsy Markey, was the keynote speaker and touched on the various incentive and technical assistance programs focused on and available to rural communities.

Executive Director Betsy Markey addressing attendees during Keynote Luncheon

“Rural economic development is a major focal point for Governor Polis, and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) is working in coordination with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and Department of Agriculture to maximize rural impact,” said Markey. “It’s critical to deliver the programs and services that can solve existing rural needs, so events like this one are great opportunities to hear valuable feedback from our rural communities. Together, we are committed to ensuring that economic prosperity is felt throughout all of Colorado.”  

“It was evident by the strong and diverse attendance, including a significant number of elected officials, that key stakeholders in eastern Colorado are committed to the engagement and collaboration needed to find creative solutions to the unique challenges they face in their communities.  Learning and understanding how these same communities are leveraging technology to provide high-level healthcare solutions for their residents to precision agriculture technologies being used to create a more sustainable environment and provide greater transparency to consumers, was truly inspiring” said Tammy Fields, EDCC Board Chair and Chief Economic Development Officer for Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC.

Event supporters:
Gold Sponsor, Prairie Development Corporation | Statewide Partner, Colorado Workforce Development Council | Keynote Lunch Sponsor, Flagler Cooperative Association | Platinum Sponsors, Colorado Office of Economic Development & Int’l Trade and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association | Breakfast Sponsor, Skillful, A Markle Initiative | Regional Sponsors, City of Westminster, High Plains Bank, Viaero Wireless, KC Electric Association, Southeast Colorado Enterprise Development, Mountain View Electric Association, and Otero County | Media Sponsors, The Limon Leader/Eastern Colorado Plainsman and Media Logic Radio

Attendees at Regional Forum on March 12, 2019

Link to Program

Link to Speaker Bios

Regional Economic Overview – Brian Lewandowski, CU Leeds School of Business
Using Regionalism for Economic Advantage – Michelle Claymore & Mayor Ford, City of Commerce City
Opportunity Zones:
Jana Persky, OEDIT
Eric Jensen, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck
Chris Montgomery, Four Points Funding
Greg Thomason, Morgan County EDC