Local leaders address econ. issues | SummitDaily.com

Local leaders address econ. issues

JENNIFER HARPERsummit daily news

Special to the Daily/Bob BlochMark Nunn, an investment expert for Edward Jones, speaks at the Economic Summit about financial forecasting for the county.

KEYSTONE – Though the event started out in the dark, attendees to the Summit Chamber’s second annual Economic Summit were enlightened with the affirmation that a countywide health care plan could be rolling out next year, and a new economic survey could take the county’s financial pulse each month.The event held Friday morning at the Keystone Lodge began without power and was eventually moved to the Keystone Conference Center when electricity wasn’t restored.

Moderated by Ralf Garrison, president of the Advisory Group of Denver, the economic outlook forum attracted about 100 people from the public, private and nonprofit sectors to address economic impacts facing the mountain communities.Opportunities and challenges to Summit County’s community were presented in the format, including the lack of sufficient health care coverage for many residents. Dillon’s Mayor Barbara Davis addressed the potential reality of Summit County bucking the health insurance system with a countywide health care plan for local residents, which was introduced last year.

According to Constance Jones, executive director of the Summit County Chamber, a task force, consisting of St. Anthony Summit Medical Center’s administrator Paul Chodkowski, CEO of High Country Health Care Dennis Flint representing the doctors, and Davis representing Centura, has been working on the plan for about a year. They are looking for a national health care provider that will work with them. Jones said the plan is mainly designed for small businesses since government entities and most larger businesses are already insured.”We’re still exploring the options of which way to go and where to get funding,” Jones said.

Davis pointed out that only 62 percent of county employers provide health care for their workers.”Just because that’s the system we know, we don’t have to accept it,” she said.

The plan would also incorporate incentives for members to adopt a healthy lifestyle in order to reduce costs.Another new concept introduced at the forum was that of the tentatively titled Summit County Business Barometer. Mark Nunn, an investment representative for Edward Jones, spoke at the Summit about financial forecasting for the county, which in a few months will be helped along by the Barometer. The measurement will consist of a monthly survey for business owners and leaders to rate economic activity and their confidence going forward.”It’s a way to get the county’s economic pulse every month,” Nunn said. He added that it will give business owners information, so they can adjust to economic changes as they occur. After 12 months of collecting data, analysts can look for economic trends.

After reviewing attendee evaluations from the forum, the chamber board will meet to determine the date and topics for the 2006 Economic Summit. “I think overall (the forum) was a success, and hopefully people found value in it,” Jones said. “There are just so many important issues related to business. There are a lot of things we didn’t get to cover like arts and humanities and education programs.”- Jennifer Harper