Each year, EDCC recognizes outstanding achievement by our members, volunteers of local organizations, large and small communities, companies, and legislators for economic development excellence.
JOIN US IN CONGRATULATING LAST YEAR’S WINNERS!
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Karah Reygers, Economic Development Manager, Castle Rock Economic Development Corp.
Karah Reygers has demonstrated exceptional leadership and potential that is uncommon for someone only in the industry for two years. In addition to all of her work on the budget, book keeping and data analysis, Karah effectively leads the business retention program in Castle Rock. She has taken leadership and created a team that is actively meeting with existing businesses, providing services, and making connections to resources in the community for our businesses to thrive and grow. In addition Karah has lead the creation an innovative digital marketing deck and app that recently launched and has had great success. Karah has also lead the 3rd party media verification campaign where Castle Rock has been featured in the DBJ, CREJ and other local media. Karah also has an amazing passion for the community and organizes a farm to table dinner that benefits local castle rock based charities and is sourced from Douglas County. That dinner provides a one-time $10,000 anonymous donation each year to a charity in Castle Rock.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ACHIEVEMENT
Kevin Tilson, Director – Downtown Alliance, Castle Rock Alliance
Kevin has successfully integrated the Downtown Development Authority and the Downtown Merchants Association into the Castle Rock Downtown Alliance uniting Downtown Castle Rock around tremendous development opportunities attracting over $125M in Downtown investment including a $7M urban park renovation that has been the driver of many of the successful downtown projects.
Kevin’s team has significantly grown the number and size of community events engaging the entire Castle Rock Community in Downtown events and has more development in the pipeline. Kevin’s dedication and work on behalf of Downtown Castle Rock to bring an excellent mix of primary employers, innovative and independent retail businesses combined with community events that preserve the small town charm and history of Castle Rock has yielded exceptional results.
VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR
Gus Westerman, Chair, Dolores County Development Corporation; CSU Extension Office, Dove Creek
Gus is a CSU Extension County Director located in the tiny town of Dove Creek, in southwest Colorado. He is the Chairman of the all-volunteer Dolores County Development Corporation (DCDC) and puts in numerous hours, leading the county level economic development organization. Dolores County has small population (less than 1,200 in the entire county) and over 60 percent of the school students are eligible for free and reduced lunch program. However, with Gus at the helm, the DCDC is one of Region 9’s thriving economic development groups. This amazing group meets monthly, oversees a business park and runs a microloan program for local businesses. This success is primarily due to Gus going above and beyond as the point person running their Weber Business Park, making sure all paperwork is in compliance, meeting with business park leaseholders, and even maintaining the property.
Gus also runs the monthly meetings for the DCDC, and advocates for community businesses at County Commissioner meetings. Most recently, he played a key role to revitalize the Dove Creek Chamber of Commerce by applying and overseeing matching marketing funds from the Colorado Tourism Office to encourage marketing, website work and signage for this rural community of 735 members. This assistance led to the Chamber hiring a part-time Director. He also advocated for Dolores County to be approved as Rural Jumpstart County. He is always helpful, has amazing people skills and unlimited energy. In less than 5 years in his Extension position, his additional volunteerism and positive outlook makes him one of the most influential, yet a truly humble leader in his community of choice.
SMALL COMMUNITY OF THE YEAR
Estes Park Economic Development Corp., Jon Nicholas, CEO
Estes Park, Colorado is a community that is keenly focused on addressing some of the most intractable systemic challenges facing the community. After recovering from the devastating flood in 2013, Estes Park has set its sights on building a more resilient, inclusive, and vibrant community and economy. Their thoughtful approach to economic development goes beyond job creation, wealth generations and new business starts, and focuses on some of the systemic issues that are inhibiting the community from reaching their goals. For example, the EDC’s work plan includes broadband, affordable housing, childcare and transportation. In a community of their size, they are punching way above their weight when it comes to their level of understanding of economic factors and the sophistication in their response.
LARGE COMMUNITY OF THE YEAR
City of Thornton, John Cody, Economic Development Director
The City of Thornton has had an Economic Development program with professional staff since the early 90’s. Over the years, the program focus has continued to evolve and today, the ED department has a staff of 7 and a budget of $1 million annually, not counting incentives. The focus areas of the department include primary job attraction and retention, retail recruitment, redevelopment and small business support.
In 2011, Thornton City Council identified redevelopment and job creation as their top two Council priorities and they remain so today. Since 2014, Thornton has made significant strides in several areas affecting Economic Development, including ED policy decisions, infrastructure development, regulatory reform, success in development opportunities, and professional development. These changes have led to major ED successes in Thornton.
COMPANY OF THE YEAR
Bonsai Design, Sarah Shrader, Co-owner and Chief Administrative Officer
Bonsai Design has demonstrated a significant commitment to economic development in Grand Junction and Colorado’s Grand Valley. As the company explored expansion opportunities in the last year, co-owners Sarah and Thaddeus Shrader came up with a master plan for the City’s river district that would not only allow the company to stay and expand in Grand Junction, but provide a hub for outdoor recreation industries in the form of a business park and recreational development.
The company tirelessly advocated for the plan, engaging the City of Grand Junction and local economic development organizations to partner on the project, which is now in development. As part of the plan, Bonsai Design commits to expanding its HQ by approx. 15 employees and developing a signature adventure course that will be open to the public and a potential tourism draw for the area. In addition to this project, Bonsai Design is an investor in GJEP and Sarah Shrader is one of our newest and most active board members. Bonsai Design’s owners helped found the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of Colorado’s Grand Valley a couple of years ago and are also actively involved in advocacy issues, such as improving elementary education is School District 51, which was identified as a top priority for the Grand Valley 2030 vision.
PARTNERSHIP OF THE YEAR
Pueblo Community College and Vestas Wind Systems
Pueblo Community College (PCC), acting as a non-practicing economic development organization, has demonstrated a multi-year commitment to the goals of the Economic Development Council of Colorado. Furthermore, PCC’s role in the enduring relationship Vestas Wind Systems is only one example of the college’s full commitment to the EDCC’s goal to strategically retain, expand and attract primary employers throughout the College’s 11,000 square mile service area.
In August 2008, Vestas Wind Systems announced that it would build and open a wind tower manufacturing plant in Pueblo the following year. The plant represented one of the company’s largest single plant investments, and today is the largest tower manufacturing facility in the world. At full operational capacity, 1000 tower units per year are produced. It is difficult to imagine the recruitment or retention of the manufacturer without PCC’s full commitment to building an enduring partnership.
When Vestas Wind Systems identified Pueblo as a potential production site, corporate leaders toured the Pueblo Campus, and met with administration and instructors. It was clear they thought the College could play an important role in the success of the new operation. In addition to possessing a keen interest, PCC had the physical space, technological infrastructure, and skilled faculty needed to create and deliver industry-driven, customized training, with high schedule flexibility. To ensure institutional alignment, College faculty visited Vestas plants in Europe to learn the production processes, procedures, and observe the corporate culture in action. The lessons learned from that visit continue to support the customized training offered by PCC after nearly a decade of operation.
In 2009, Vestas announced the plant would hire 500 skilled technicians on the roster. Currently, 750 technicians work at the Pueblo plant, and current projections indicate 806 workers will be in place by December 2017. Since 2009, PCC’s Corporate College has trained 1,460 Vestas employees (unduplicated headcount). In 2014, PCC was awarded a CHAMP grant, from which PCC created a very successful “Fast Track” welding program. Vestas is one of several local and regional partners who rely on the program’s ability to produce skilled technicians prepared to enter the plant job ready on day one.
CHAIRMAN’S CHOICE AWARD
Tom Clark, formerly President & CEO, Metro Denver EDC (retired)
For over forty years, Tom Clark has played a pivotal role in the growth and regional cooperation of one of the nation’s most diverse and expanding economies – Metro Denver. Clark retired as CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation in 2017, having worked for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce since 1985 and is responsible for such projects as the creation of Denver International Airport, Denver’s bid to get Major League Baseball, and the successful approval of Denver’s regional transit rail system, Fastracks. He founded the Metro Denver Network, the nation’s first regional economic development program, for which received the Arthur D. Little Award for Excellence in Economic Development.