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Dillon working for brighter future

CHRISTINE McMANUS

DILLON – If it’s true that you need money to make money, Dillon might be onto something that resembles a sustainable economic plan for the town.

Dillon soon will pay its last of $2.9 million in sales tax rebate payments initially promised to City Market to attract it to the Dillon Ridge Shopping Center.

That will free up an estimated $470,000 per year in sales taxes.

The Dillon Town Council, town manager Jack Benson and the town’s diverse Economic Development Committee know what they want to do with the money.

Businesses and residents on the economic committee recently told the Dillon Town Council that the town needs an incentive and inducement program to bring in new and expanding businesses, and a full-time economic development adviser.

For years Dillon’s comfortable downtown has slowly lost some of the lakeside vibrancy it once had. Businesses that draw locals and tourists alike are few and far between these days in the town center near the popular marina.

Among the departed downtown draws are the movie theater, the old post office, restaurants and a local drug store.

Surviving businesses and a few new ones are standing strong.

But they mourn the loss of traffic most of all, if public hearing comments pleading for “more bodies” at town council meetings are any indication.

Although people spend a lot of money at the popular Dillon Ridge Shopping Center farther down the highway, the downtown is a gem that needs and deserves a real, concerted polishing, said members of Dillon’s new Economic Development Committee.

The committee’s recommendation to nurture the downtown business climate was among many suggestions submitted to town officials at the regular council meeting last week.

The best things the town has going for it are its beautiful views, the natural environment and the existing recreational opportunities on and around Dillon Reservoir, the committee said.

The town is near four world-class ski resorts, yet it has comparatively fewer activities than the resort areas.

Committee members said one weakness the town has is its lack of year-round activities.

Another weakness, said volunteers from the community, is that its layout and community organization could be better.

However, with business incentives and other town initiatives, the committee sees real opportunities in the vacant storefronts and offices.

There is development potential in the town, the committee said.

Colorado Mountain College representatives participated in the economic discussions. The college has a community education center in downtown Dillon.

Threats to Dillon’s vitality include reduced reservoir levels sucked down by the thirsty, growing Front Range population.

If town government doesn’t do anything to bolster the town, its own passivity could also be a threat, said economic advisers from the community.

Another threat could be competition from other mountain areas.

Dillon officials repeatedly have said in town meetings that towns should cooperate to offer a variety of Summit County experiences and businesses to locals and visitors alike. Dillon and Silverthorne joined marketing efforts for the 2003-04 winter season.

Summit County Chamber director Jack Taylor warned Dillon to avoid one pitfall experienced by some resort communities.

“Make sure the attractions that draw people to Dillon are the attractions that make people proud to live in Dillon,” Taylor said.

Besides the development of business incentives and inducements, Dillon’s other five goals are to:

n hire a full-time economic development coordinator with a proven track record in similar environments;

n search for experienced consultants who have had meaningful, recognizable and attributable results with towns and clients similar to Dillon;

n create town subcommittees for town art, town parks, joint marketing efforts, business events, memorable town events and places;

n systematically package new and existing buildings, parking areas and development rights in the town center for future proposals to developers and buyers; and

n define what “pedestrian” can really mean in Dillon.

The ultimate goal is to make people want to linger in Dillon after an event or to turn off Highway 6 onto Lake Dillon Drive on their own, said the committee in its report.

The first visible step Dillon is taking is the reconstruction of its entryway off of Highway 6.

Christine McManus can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229 or cmcmanus@summitdaily.com.


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