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Priorities: THE ECONOMY

THE COVID-19 ECONOMY

  • Create an Office of Economic Development
  • Build and Leverage Public-Private Partnerhsips
  • Improve Transparency and Accessibility to County Government
  • Evaluate and Improve our Infrastructure

Over the course of this campaign, many people have asked me how, as a community, I thought things were going for Summit during COVID.

Before COVID entered our lives in Summit, most of the conversations centered on issues of crowding and traffic. Now, especially with the recent news that Summit has the second-highest unemployment in the state, conversations focus mainly on how we return to normal.

If we learned anything from the recent debates about returning to in-class learning, it’s that there simply is no silver bullet that will work for everyone. And everyone will have a different metric for success. We can all agree that economic issues really are the foundation for much of it.

70% of Summit County’s jobs rely on tourism. As a result, when we face a disruption to the industry like we have since COVID-19 emerged, so many locals and families are disproportionately impacted. It explains much of the bad unemployment numbers.

Thanks to some thoughtful and creative efforts implemented by businesses, organizations, and government around the County, it feels like a lot of damage was avoided.

But the unemployment numbers tell a tough story: Our lack of diversity in our job market leaves us exposed. I believe that now is the time to look holistically at the what would make our community, our workforce, and our economy better prepared to withstand change in the future.

Thinking strategically about this requires a foundation from which to build. Below are a few pillars to consider as a starting point:

CREATE AN OFFICE OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Historically, these offices are laser-focused on strategies and tactics to improve the overall economic picture of a community. In Summit County, working relationships with multiple entities both governmental and non-governmental should be a primary focus. It should:

  • Foster collaboration, acting as the connective tissue between County and municipal government and the leaders and organizations currently focused on economic issues.
  • Leverage state and federal funds in a coordinated way between County and the municipalities while building systems to get funds directly into our community.
  • Take a data-driven approach to economic challenges such as the costs and benefits of attracting new types of businesses and employees who can telecommute and how it would impact infrastructure and strategies around housing and childcare.
  • Invest in workforce development, including working with CMC to build on workforce retraining programs that prioritize jobs that have positive community impact (e.g. nursing, first responders, etc.)
  • Help develop a pipeline of jobs in anticipation of where they’re most needed and ensure the workforce exists to fill them

Build and leverage public private partnerships

We must tap the innovative spirit and existing business leadership in Summit County as we move forward. These partnerships are essential if we want to find ways to diversify and stabilize our economy.

  • The recent proposal that the County should have an Economic Advisory Committee is a good one. It should serve as a place where citizens and small business owners can give input to the County on the issues, strategies, and policies that factor into strong economic development.
  • So much good work is already being undertaken by the Summit Chamber of Commerce and the Breckenridge Tourism Office. The should increase its support for projects like the Summit Prosperity Initiative and the and the CO Starters program and a fraction of what it would cost for the county to implement on its own. 

Improve transparency and accessibility to County government

During the pandemic, The Board of County Commissioners demonstrated how easy it is to allow public access to meetings via Zoom—this has been a boon for public participation in our government. 

  • When the BOCC returns to meeting in person, those meetings should not only continue to be available to stream, but be held in different places around the County. From Copper to Dillon Valley to Keystone to Heeney, every resident should have the opportunity to participate in the process of making decisions for our community.
  • Government cannot solve our most difficult problems alone, we must leverage the strength of each sector to move forward with a common vision. 

Evaluate and Improve Our infrastructure

For Summit County to continue to develop a working economy we must have the necessary infrastructure in place to support our community and its workforce.

  • Evaluate the condition of our streets, sidewalks (or lack thereof), and highway exits and their capacity to meet our needs.
  • Create a transparent approach to prioritizing each capital improvement and everyone must have a voice in weighing our greatest priorities
  • Develop adequate broadband and wireless capabilities for everyone in our community.
  • Ensure we’ve got a strong voice representing our needs on the CDOT Transportation Commission, the body that sets priorities within our region (which stretches from Summit all the way to the Utah border).