The regional partnership aims to take a leading role in economic development

The Routt County Economic Development Partnership’s new homepage includes tools to help potential businesses find commercial space, explore local talent and learn about the Yampa Valley.
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Nearly $300,000 in state grants to several Routt County-based companies and startups hope to create more than 60 jobs, each paying at or above the local median wage.

Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan said Monday, Aug. 8, that it’s statistics like these that may ease his skepticism about economic development.

“I’m skeptical, but I’m not close,” Corrigan said.



The joke came during a presentation by John Bristol, executive director of the Routt County Economic Development Partnership, a new nonprofit that seeks to separate local economic development from the Steamboat Springs Chamber, which has handled it in the past.

Bristol said it’s the culmination of years of discussions about what economic development in the Yampa Valley should look like and how to make it sustainable in the long term.



“I think there’s been a debate in the community for a long time about having a pure economic development organization focused on primary business,” Bristol said. “These are enterprises that bring new profits, new capital to the country.”

Bristol said the key difference between the Chamber and the new organization is tax status. The Chamber is a 501(c)6 organization dedicated to advocacy, where this new partnership is a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

That difference opens the partnership up to much more state, federal and other grant funding opportunities that the Chamber doesn’t currently have access to, Bristol said.

“I think the key part is the partnership,” Bristol said. “We all have to work together, across the county and across the municipalities.”

The partnership currently includes Routt County, Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Yampa, Yampa Valley Electric Association, Yampa Valley Community Foundation and the Chamber as investors, among others. Bristol said he hopes to eventually add Oak Creek to the mix as well.

The partnership board includes managers from each city, town or county, as well as some local businesses, and is still in the process of establishing the organization. Bristol said the application for 501(c)3 status has been submitted to the IRS, and the approval process typically takes six to eight months.

However, the partnership recently hired its second employee, who will focus on what Bristol called the cornerstone of economic development, “business retention and expansion.”

When it comes to hiring new businesses, Bristol said he believes in a more reactive approach, which is consistent with the approach taken in the rest of Colorado.

“Colorado offers talent — really smart people — and secondly, quality of life,” Bristol said. “Attractiveness is usually not a top priority.”

Bristol said he wants to make sure that if a company plans to move or start up in Routt County, it has a “concierge” of sorts who understands what the company needs and whether the community can meet those needs.

That could be especially important outside of Steamboat Springs in places like Hayden, which are actively trying to attract new businesses, Bristol said. New partnership website ChooseRouttCounty.com/index.html
has what Bristol calls an engagement page, which hopes to be the first step in the engagement process by identifying potential commercial space available locally.

The website also includes data on what industries already exist, community demographics, and a high-level look at what talent resides in the Yampa Valley.

“This work that’s being done is the big picture,” Bristol said. “It’s been a long time coming, but we’re doing it.”

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