On August 18, the Economic Development Council of Colorado (EDCC) hosted its Regional Economic Development Forum, the second in a series of forums held around the state in 2016, at the Bridges Golf Course in Montrose, CO.
Inspired by Regions 9, 10, and Mesa County this one-day forum focused on issues that affect many communities around the state. Presentations on preparing and attracting tomorrow’s talent, supporting small business and manufacturers, and growing and attracting business to rural areas, provided attendees tools and resources to take back and implement in their own communities.
Attended by over 100 economic development professionals, policy leaders, and area businesses, the forum also addressed air service challenges that our regional and rural airports face, and the changing landscape of agriculture.
Featured presenters included Dennis Lankes, co-founder of Proximity Space – just named the best co-working space in the World, Sara Maffey Duncan, president & CEO of Edgewood Strategies, and Matt Skinner, chief operating officer for Colorado Flights Alliance to name a few.
Dennis Lankes and fellow panelists Gerrit McGowan, director for WSCU Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship (ICE) Project in Gunnison, and Josh Hudnall, co-founder of Launch West CO in Grand Junction, presented on our changing workforce and what types of infrastructure we need to have in place in order to meet their future needs. “Just like the expectation of being able to turn a light on, today’s workforce has the expectation of staying connected.” Lankes said. Josh Hudnall added that “millennials need a sense of purpose and community in their workplace.”
Sara Maffey Duncan was joined by Laura Brandt, director of Economic Development for Metro Denver EDC and Sam Bailey, senior manager of Industry Development for OEDIT. They provided ideas for rural communities to market and to attract site selectors and businesses to their area. “Think regionally,” Sara commented. “If you can work together as a region, you can then help answer workforce questions rural communities face. It also gives a variety of life style options for a company who is looking in your area.”
Matt Skinner and fellow panelists Kip Turner, director for Grand Junction Regional Airport, and Bill Swelbar, vice president of InterVISTAS, presented on the state of our regional airports. Since 2011 when the western slope saw a large decline in seat capacity, the western slope airports began to think regionally. “Montrose has increased by 5 percent in seats since 2011,” Matt said. “We attribute this largely to our regional focus. When the oil and gas companies started to exit the Grand Junction market and the airport couldn’t fill their seat capacity, Montrose helped back-fill those seats to prevent loosing the flight for the western slope.”