Summit County: Governor and team pop the jobs question |

Summit County: Governor and team pop the jobs question

SILVERTHORNE – Dwayne Romero opened the meeting on bottom-up economic development with a magic wand.

The sparkly star-tipped wand is a loaner, Romero told the crowd gathered at the Silverthorne Pavilion Thursday night. It’s on lease from Romero’s 5-year-old daughter who heard her father, the new head of the Office of Economic Development, saying he didn’t have one when the governor called to offer him the job.

But as unemployment rates in Colorado top numbers nationally, it’s clear that neither the government nor magic can create the jobs the state needs.

And Romero knows it.

“It’s a perfect message for what’s in play for the state,” he said, brandishing the wand. “It touches the positive signals of the magic of creativity, but it also reminds us of how difficult the times are right now.”

Enter Gov. John Hickenlooper’s bottom-up economic development plan, an effort to draft a grassroots-inspired strategy for economic development based on statewide conversations and the reason for Thursday’s regional meeting in Silverthorne.

“What we’re doing here right now is an economic development initiative starting from a grassroots level and trying to build the bottom up with good ideas and good suggestions on what the state can do to support local economies,” Romero said at Thursday’s meeting.

It was the most recent in a slew of meetings in the region intended to encourage individuals to participate in the formulation of the plan.

It has been and will continue to be a fast-paced process, administration officials promised local leaders, business owners and citizens from all over the region who attended the meeting Thursday. The governor rolled out the bottom-up economic development plan just four days after his inauguration and wants to have 14 regional plans, created through individual and local participation, ready by May.

Thursday’s meeting was intended to get the ball rolling. After a few hurried statements about the nature of economic development and the state’s current predicament, the group broke up by county to discuss local strategies, barriers and assets to economic development.

It was then, with the Summit County group circled around Romero’s magic wand that Tony Hernandez, director of the Division of Local Government began handing out duties and deadlines. On the spot, he formed a Summit County leadership committee to take charge of writing an economic development plan for the county and asked them to arrange to meet as a group and, if necessary, with the county as a whole in the coming weeks. The county’s economic development plan is due April 15, and will then become part of a regional plan.

Summit County is part of region 12, which also includes Eagle, Grand, Jackson and Pitkin counties.

As a group, the Summit County residents at the meeting listed off local barriers to economic development, including the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, Interstate 70 and high rent rates as well as assets for local economy.

In 2009, Summit County is estimated to have had more than 22,000 jobs available, according to data from the state demographer’s office. Recently released census data suggests the county was home to at least 26,000 people in 2010. Accommodations and food service, retail trade and local government provide the most jobs in the county. The average per capita income in Summit County was more than $45,000 per year in 2009, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Hernandez concluded the Summit County huddle by recruiting people to

e-mail out a link to an online survey which, he said, takes only 3 minutes and allows individuals to voice their ideas about their county’s strengths, barriers and strategies for economic development. The survey, available online at http://www.advance, must be completed within 30 days, or by mid-April.

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