Kathryn Turner
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October 14, 2012
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Summit County business minds talk politics

When it comes to matters of politics, Summit County business people have their own ideas about what the local candidates should focus on.

For Allen Bacher, a senior consultant at the Colorado Small Business Development Center in Dillon, it's commercial diversification, a strong vocational-technical program for those who won't be attending college, and a local economic development council to focus on how to boost business in Summit County.

"We have too much concentration dependent upon the resorts," Bacher said, adding that should there be three seasons in a row of poor snow, economic recovery would be a long time coming. "We need some commercial diversification."

Bacher suggests light industrial or light manufacturing companies locally as a route to economic diversity. Vocational training schools are needed to help support those who aren't pursing a path to college, he said.

"If we're not promoting technical, it'll never happen," he said.

Bacher, who teaches economics at Colorado Mountain College in Summit, feels the county should support an economic development council to strengthen the local business infrastructure.

The issue has come up between Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier and challenger Kevin Mastin - Mastin has indicated he's for it, while Stiegelmeier said at a recent debate that she didn't want to create a "redundant" organization focused on economic development. She advocated allowing the private sector, including the two ski resorts located in unincorporated Summit County, to take the lead on marketing and promotion efforts.

Breckenridge had its own economic development council a few years back, which sounded good on paper, but "didn't have the staying power," said Mike Dudick, owner and developer of Grand Lodge on Peak 7 and Grand Timber Lodge, and a member of the Breckenridge Town Council. Maybe the key isn't necessarily a county council, but a brainstorming between local business and political leaders on how to entice new enterprises to Summit - information for potential business owners should be put together in a cohesive package, and in an easily digestible format, he said.

"I think whether it's the town or the county, we have to have a clearly defined way we conduct business," he said. "We have to create a certainty for those that are willing to risk their own equity to create a business."

Eddie O'Brien, owner of O'Brien and Associates Real Estate in Dillon, is all for a local economic development council. He has been involved in both Silverthorne's and Dillon's.

"If you have a committee that is seated well, meaning you have good business people ... then they're very effective," he said.

Having one tied to the county commissioners, O'Brien feels, would be very useful - especially for those businesses that reside in Summit County, but not within town limits. It would give them a voice, he said.

When it comes to how state representatives can affect Summit County's business community, O'Brien points to the recent legislation that clarifies Forest Service rules for summer activities on resort mountains as a good example - it will benefit economic development, he said.

"If they continue to focus on continuing to build businesses in the ski areas, that will trickle down to the local businesses," he said.

O'Brien wants the representatives to look out for solutions for small businesses, especially in the areas of health care and taxation. Companies comprised of only two to 20 people are the backbone of Summit County and many of its surrounding communities, he said, so they need to survive.

Michael Rath, managing partner of Trilogy Builds, hopes the local politicians will help bring the jobs back to the construction industry. Rath is also vice president of the Summit County Builder's Association, and said building permits aren't what they used to be - in 2004, there were 300. So far in 2012, there has been 72.

"What I've been trying to do is reach out to the towns and let them know. If the rest of the economy dropped off 75 percent, we wouldn't recognize the world we live in anymore," he said.


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The Summit Daily Updated Oct 14, 2012 09:25PM Published Oct 14, 2012 09:24PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.