ACEDC: Economic development is good investment

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ALAMOSA — Members of the Alamosa County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC) impressed on Alamosa city councilors during a work session Wednesday night the value of city support for the organization.

“Everyone in this room understands very well the importance of economic development,” said ACEDC/Alamosa County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Randy Wright. “It comes up every election.”

He said ACEDC works closely with the SLV Small Business Development Center, directed by Jeff Owsley, to attract, expand and retain jobs and businesses in the area. While ACEDC is focused on Alamosa County and the SBDC is Valley wide, both embrace economic development wherever it occurs in the Valley because the collaborative approach benefits everyone, Wright explained.

“We are too small to not work better together,” added ACEDC Past President Delzia Worley. She said ACEDC appreciates the city’s financial support as well as staff support from city staff such as Public Works Director Pat Steenburg and City Manager Heather Brooks.

“I don’t think I have ever seen a better working relationship with council and the city in this area of economic development in my lifetime,” Owsley said. “Your staff is incredible.”

“I don’t think you can do economic development without working together,” added ACEDC Executive Board Member Duane Bussey. He said it takes partnerships between the private and public sector.

At the request of the city council, Wright outlined some of the accomplishments of the group in the past year: 247 contacts; 28 business starts; 75 jobs created; at least 45 jobs retained.

Worley and Wright said although the most obvious measure of economic development is new business, the true measure of economic development encompasses much more than that. Worley said, for example, that it is just as important to retain businesses and jobs that already exist in the community as it is to bring in new ones.

Councilor Charles Griego asked who else contributes to ACEDC’s budget, specifically if the county helped fund the group and if ACEDC had memberships like the chamber of commerce. Griego added that the city provided $25,000 when the group began to help get it started. The current amount budgeted from the city for ACEDC is $29,000.

Wright said the city’s funding for ACEDC was crucial as an ongoing contribution.

“If we have irons in the fire, we have got to make sure they stay hot,” Wright said.

Wright said the county contributes about $5,500 towards ACEDC’s annual budget of about $100,000, as well as paying for some of Wright’s trips such as a recent trip to a Dallas expo. Other income comes from memberships, Wright said.

Worley said corporations such as participating banks pay $5,000 for annual memberships and individual businesses pay $2,000 for annual memberships.

Councilor Kristina Daniel asked how ACEDC’s relationship with the city is mutually beneficial.

“It’s becoming very clear with the things that we have done over the last 10-15 years that we play a very important role in economic development for the city as well as the county of Alamosa,” said current ACEDC President Keith Cerny, “because if we don’t do it, who is going to do it? As far as I am aware, the city does not have an economic arm.”

Cerny added that in the recently completed comprehensive plan one of the strongest points made by citizens in the community was the need for economic development.

Brooks said that economic development was rated in the 80-plus percentage as a priority for community members who participated in the comprehensive plan, specifically urging the city to contribute more resources to economic development.

Griego said economic development was supposed to be jobs, and residents want to know if jobs are being created and how many. Wright said the effect of the 75 new jobs listed in the annual report could be multiplied, and every one of the employees in those new jobs is spending money.

Councilor Liz Thomas Hensley added that those 75 jobs actually could multiply out to 100-120 jobs.

“It has a ripple effect,” she said. “It does really multiply.”

Cerny added that if the city viewed its $29,000 contribution to ACEDC in terms of the 75 jobs created in the last year, “It’s a pretty small investment to make … As taxpayers, that was a great investment.”

Cerny said business owners understand how important economic development is for the health and future of their businesses.

“Without other businesses in this community, mine goes away,” he said.

Worley added that a strong business community is also crucial for recruiting and retaining staff at the hospital and university.

Alamosa Mayor Josef Lucero asked what was being done to stop the leakage of dollars going elsewhere because Alamosa may not have businesses or goods that consumers are looking for.

Brooks reminded the council that the city has been working with a company that identifies those gaps so the city can help potential new businesses find out what is missing here and perhaps feel a need. Alamosa is in a prime position to be a leader in the new fields of unmanned aircraft and hemp, she added.

Owsley said he is currently speaking with people who are interested in starting new businesses here, and he is talking with them about the niches that are not filled. He agreed that Colorado has unique opportunities in certain fields such as unmanned aircraft and agricultural and heritage tourism.

He said one of the San Luis Valley’s biggest assets is its cooperative effort.

Wright said if a new business locates in one part of the Valley, it benefits the rest of the Valley too.

Lucero asked about ACEDC’s relationship with the marketing district. Two of the ACEDC members present Wednesday night — Owsley and Rob Oringdulph — are also on the marketing district, with Oringdulph serving as chairman.

“There is a close relationship between the tourism and marketing board and ACEDC because we are working towards the same goal,” Oringdulph said. “Both organizations are kept abreast of what each other is doing.”

Councilman Ty Coleman spoke in favor of retaining current funding for ACEDC and compared economic growth to planting a seed, which may not be visible above ground at first but eventually breaks through.

City councilors were receptive to more frequent meetings with ACEDC.

Mayor Lucero concluded, “We want to be part of the vision. We are part of the vision.”

Caption: Members of the Alamosa County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC) meet with Alamosa city councilors and city staff during a work session on September 20. From left are Councilman Ty Coleman, ACEDC member Duane Bussey, ACEDC President Keith Cerny, ACEDC/Chamber Executive Director Randy Wright, Councilors Charles Griego and Kristina Daniel and Mayor Josef Lucero. Courier photo by Ruth Heide

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