DURANGO The three-day economic development conference hosted in Durango last week was dubbed a success by organizers and attendees alike.
Everyone weve worked with, the entire community, worked very hard to put on a great conference, said Ann Driggers, president of the Economic Development Council of Colorado.
The Economic Development Council is a statewide nonprofit organization made up of officials from the public and private business sectors. The group works to retain, expand and attract new business to improve the states economic situation.
The event marked the first time in a decade that Durango has hosted one of the conferences, which are held twice a year. Durango was chosen from three cities that applied to host the spring event this year, said Laura Lewis Marchino, assistant director of Region 9 Economic Development District, and more than 160 economic-development professionals from around the state attended.
The conference kicked off with a CEO-led tour of two local award-winning companies applauded in business circles for their growth and innovation: Ska Brewing and StoneAge WaterBlast Tools. Event organizers said the tours were a hit among attendees.
Everyone is talking about how fun Durango is, Jack Llewellyn, executive director of Durango Chamber of Commerce, said afterward. They keep saying what an awesome community it is.
After a relatively light first day, economic developers got to the meat of the weeks business Thursday with a heavy round of meetings and presentations on topics ranging from challenges hindering the states ability to compete for business to legislative advocacy.
The day started with a dose of statistics to put things into perspective.
Patty Silverstein of Development Research Partners presented a report called Toward a More Competitive Colorado that pulled data from numerous agencies and official reports to give the economic developers an idea of how Colorado compares with its competitor states and the rest of the nation.
Attendees, including La Plata County Commissioner Wally White, said the report offered an overall picture of where Colorado stands.
Its information we dont usually get to see all in one place and presentation, White said.
Silverstein said the state shines in areas such as elementary school education, sales tax, residential property taxes and the health of its population. Colorado ranks among the top five states in the nation for those attributes, the report showed. The state also is uniquely situated with a solid track record of clean-energy business creation, something that will be critical as the nation enters the new energy economy of the future.
The shining lights dim, however, when it comes to the cost of college, health insurance and housing, she said. Colorado ranks in the bottom half of the nation in those categories, the report said.
Companies want to make sure their employees can afford to live, Silverstein said.
Later, development professionals took a closer look at issues such as freight coordination in rural areas, the states economic-development tools to help businesses and overcoming its challenges.
They also looked at how mentoring networks can build entrepreneurship, productivity and innovation in business.
There are so many different issues people deal with in starting or expanding a business, having good quality mentoring can really be helpful, said Joe Keck, director of the Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center.
Keck was one of four presenters who spoke about benefits businesses can reap from resources such as business advising and special loans provided through local networks.
Laurie Sigillito, a local business owner who has used the business development centers advising services and has received startup loans from Region 9 Economic Development District, said both organizations gave her much-needed assistance in starting her business.
I want to make sure other small businesses realize all the resources that are out there, Sigillito said. Theyre not alone; they just have to get engaged.
On Friday, the conference closed with more networking opportunities for attendees and updates on legislative work and Gov. John Hickenloopers statewide Bottom-Up Economic Development Plan.
Llewellyn and White said hosting the event was worthwhile and an important opportunity for Front Range economic-development executives to see in person the attributes of the region and the innovative ideas and solutions its entrepreneurs bring to the table.
Hopefully, this will help us attract some new businesses to our area, White said.