Survey: Housing still a top problem for Summit County
By significant margins, Summit County residents ranked tourism the county’s top economic strength and a lack of affordable housing its greatest economic threat, according to the initial results of a recent survey from Gov. Hickenlooper’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
More than 70 percent of Summit responders to the , which is still available online, selected a “lack of affordable housing” as one of the five biggest threats or limitations to the county’s economy from a list of 14 options.
Lack of developable land or suitable buildings and lack of access to capital were also selected as important economic threats for Summit, by a little over 30 percent of respondents. The nearly 200 Summit County residents who have taken the survey so far consistently ranked tourism among the county’s top economic opportunities or strengths by margins higher than 90 percent. More than 53 percent of responders listed encouraging the growth of existing businesses and industries among their top five economic goals for the county, and more than 50 percent wanted to see the local economic base diversified. In an open-response question about actions the state could take to help advance Summit’s economic development, many responders mentioned improvements or work on Interstate 70. Though some in Summit County are critical of the economic development survey, the goals and frustrations highlighted in the results are consistent with feedback from residents in the past. “While the survey process was rather random and unscientific in the way it was conducted, the priorities stated were largely what this community has been saying for years,” Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said in an e-mail. “There weren’t any surprises or newer concepts related to the current economy. Clearly, our quality natural assets and tourism remain our vital economic base.”
The survey is part of Hickenlooper’s bottom-up economic development plan, an effort to create a Colorado strategy for economic recovery and growth through input from individuals as well as local governments and organizations. In addition to the survey online, the Office of Economic Development has held numerous meetings around the state in an attempt to pull together strategies for each county that will then be worked into regional plans and finally into a state-wide plan. The concept, and Hickenlooper’s survey, mirror work undertaken by the Northwest Council of Governments, a collaboration of local governments from Jackson, Grand, Eagle, Pitkin and Summit counties that has spent the last year developing a strategy for economic development in the mountain region based on grassroots input. But for Summit County, an area versed in government evaluations, the question is: Will these studies result in action for the benefit of local economies and job markets?They could, says Rachel Lunney, research project manager for NWCCOG.”The end goal is to become an economic development district through the (Federal) Economic Development Administration,” Lunney said. “What that would get us is additional funding from the (administration) to hopefully pursue some of these goals (highlighted in the survey results).”In the meantime, one important source of funding will remain in place at least for this year, amid extensive state budget cuts. The survey is available at http://www.advancecolorado.com/bottomup.
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