Grand’s Economic Development celebrates two years | SkyHiNews.com
Leia Larsen
llarsen@skyhidailynews.com

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Grand’s Economic Development celebrates two years

Economic Development Coordinator DiAnn Butler serves a unique cake at a celebration of the department's progress and accomplishments over the last two years on April 8, 2014. The colorful confection was created by Jilly's Cakes in Kremmling, a local business that opened last fall with help from Economic Development and Grand Enterprise Initiative programs.

Just shy of its two-year birthday, Grand County Economic Development held a small fete to commemorate its achievements.

Formed in June 2012 to attract businesses and grow the county's economy, county commissioners gave coordinator DiAnn Butler a formidable task. Along with an advisory committee, volunteers and input from across the county, she has focused economic development goals around seven "core" objectives: build a business-friendly environment, retain, grow and recruit business, create and market a stronger Grand County brand, educate and train the future workforce, increase access to capital, cultivate innovation and technology and collaborate efforts countywide and statewide. On Tuesday, April 8, Butler hosted a celebration of the county's economic development efforts at the county courthouse, attended by county commissioners, town trustees, town managers, chamber of commerce directors, business owners and representatives from regional and state organizations.

"I really think it's bringing all of you together, that's my role," Butler said.

Among Economic Development's most ambitious projects is a community profile. Originally an idea the Winter Park and Fraser Chamber of Commerce had for the Fraser Valley, Economic Development partnered with the chamber to make the profile countywide. The project is still in the works, but it will ultimately catalog economic data in the area from a variety of sources and generate profile reports on lodging, real estate, nonprofits, businesses, guests, residents and business owners in the county. The project officially began last February, and should be completed by May 2015. Economic Development will compile the data and research into an interactive tool on its website that will be continually updated.

Grand Enterprise Initiative

To retrain, grow and recruit businesses to the county, Economic Development is working with the Grand Enterprise Initiative. The organization works with new and existing businesses by providing free, confidential coaching. Enterprise Facilitator Patrick Brower reported Grand Enterprise Initiative has assisted 116 clients so far, helping to establish nine new businesses and expand 12, adding 27 new jobs to the county.

Economic Development also has signed a contract with Northwest Colorado Business Development Center. It has set up satellite offices in both Winter Park and Kremmling, offering workshops, courses and free consulting

I am Grand

To create a stronger Grand County brand, Economic Development launched its "i am Grand" campaign last November to foster local entrepreneurial pride. A few months ago, it started Grand Creatives, bringing together local artists and creative talent with the long-term goal of creating an "art trail" in the county.

In educating and training the county's future workforce, Butler is working on a youth engagement project with West Grand School District to find ways to get students to return to the county after college.

Butler has also worked to connect county businesses to capital through work with the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments Northwest Loan Fund. According to Anita Cameron, NWCCOG's director of business lending, last year the loan fund program received six applications, five of which were from Grand County.

To bring more innovation and technology to the county, Butler highlighted NWCCOG's efforts to secure funding from the Department of Local Affairs, or DOLA, and prepare a strategy for broadband access in the region. Economic Development is also working with county locals to bring better transportation to the county, including a revitalization of the airports in Kremmling and Granby.

Lastly, Economic Development has been working with DOLA and Downtown Colorado Inc. over the last year and half. They launched a countywide Main Street assessment earlier this week, which will work in tandem with the community profile.

"There's not a county in the state of Colorado that has all of its municipalities participating in what would be like a Main Street community assessment, except we're seeing Grand County as a Main Street," said Greg Winkler of DOLA. "And actually, it could be Colorado's main street."

Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.