Granby mulls ways to promote economic development
November 16, 2011
Economic development may be a catch-all reference to what people strive for in any town.
“The problem isn’t bringing in businesses right now,” said downtown Granby business owner Patrick Brower. “It’s keeping what we’ve got.”
Businesses in Granby and beyond are feeling the effects of what seems like an exodus of population, Brower said.
“It’s very dire here right now,” he said. “I hope our banks can hold on, I hope our bigger retailers can hold on.”
It’s why citizens of Granby are looking into a multi-pronged approach toward economic development.
In its budget discussions, the Granby Town Board is pondering an infusion of funds for creating a new “economic facilitator” for the Granby area.
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And on another front, last week a team of historic preservationists, Colorado Department of Local Affairs coordinators and Main Street program directors visited Granby to assess its Main Street program successes, perceived missed opportunities and goals for the upcoming year.
On a national to local level, the Main Street program aims to revitalize economies and preserve their character. Granby became a Main Street town about three years ago.
What the resource team found was robust design-committee work – one of four Granby Main Street committees – dedicated to beautifying the downtown with planters and new downtown signage.
But the town still lacks in “branding” its Main Street progress, which sometimes can become overshadowed by the Granby Chamber of Commerce programs and functions, the “Resource Team” stated. The challenge of slowing down traffic in town remains, they said, and the community could also better celebrate its attributes, such as the Amtrak gateway to town (after all, Granby was established in 1905 as a railroad town), historic architecture such as the early 1930s car dealership, and the Granby downtown’s location on Highway 40 – once Victory Highway, or the Midland Trail, a section of a “nationwide thing,” according to Lyle Miller, historic preservation outreach specialist of the State Historical Fund.
The Team presented its 45-page PowerPoint last week to a core group of volunteers, chamber and town representatives. Forthcoming from the Department of Local Affairs will be a more detailed Main Street report complete with observations, flushed out recommendations and step-by-step plans to continue the work of existing Main Street committees.
“The biggest benefit was to have that many eyes, observing our downtown area on things that maybe we don’t see,” said Granby’s Main Street Coordinator Laurie Findley.
One challenge the Main Street program faces, she said, is recruiting new volunteers to bring fresh energy to programs, helping to prevent volunteer burn-out.
Findley’s salary is paid for through the town’s general fund. The economic development department of the town’s budget originated from developer proceeds negotiated and paid whenever Grand Elk or Granby Ranch issued bonds for infrastructure.
In the town’s draft budget, the town is again budgeting the Main Street salary and a $50,350 chamber contribution.
Meanwhile, in budget talks, the town of Granby is considering setting aside about $40,000-plus in its budget for the salary of an economic facilitator in the town.
Marise Cipriani of Granby Ranch has offered to fund $65,000 on top of the town’s contribution to train this potential facilitator through the Sirolli Institute (www.sirolli.com).
Granby Mayor Jynnifer Pierro, Town Manager Wally Baird and Cipriani attended a Sirolli seminar this year and during the town board’s retreat invited a Sirolli representative to address board members.
The Sirolli Institute, headed by Dr. Ernesto Sirolli, is an international nonprofit organization that teaches community leaders how to establish and maintain Enterprise Facilitation projects in their community, with the “passion, determination, intelligence, and resourcefulness of the local people.”
According to Baird, Sirolli offers a grass-roots approach to economic development, which nurtures existing businesses and community members to expand or start businesses. A facilitator, which ultimately would be supported by the community at large and overseen by a separate board that would function as a corporation for the purpose of hiring – with only limited support from the town – Baird said, would help prospective and existing business owners with business plans and with direction for marketing, accounting and product production, all in confidence.
“A lot of people who want to start a business don’t know where to start,” Baird said.
During budget discussions, the Granby Town Board discussed its preference that the facilitator start out being Granby-based, with the potential for branching out to represent business owners beyond greater-Granby in future years.
“Just one business has an impact,” Baird said. One business owner can inject economic support to the community, from the supplies store, to restaurants, to the local barber.
“If we could start six businesses a year, and with only 60 percent success rate on that, in 10 years we would have 36 new businesses in town,” Baird said. “I’d do anything to be able to snap my fingers and put 36 people to work right now.”
Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603