Next week, the Montezuma Community Economic Development Association will host a regional economic summit designed to strengthen local businesses in Southwest Colorado.
The all-day event starts at 9 a.m. Wednesday, and will feature speakers from some of Montezuma County’s most prominent businesses, as well as a presentation from Ted Howard, president of the national research organization Democracy Collaborative. It will include several breakout sessions, all focused on the theme “Making Local Work.” MCEDA has held economic summits in the past, but organizers are hoping this year’s event will draw a larger crowd and lead to more collaboration with locally owned businesses outside Montezuma County.
MCEDA member Leila Hanson said the group wanted to have local speakers with expertise in art, agriculture and business in order to make the event relevant to as many people as possible. The summit’s main goal, she said, is to encourage both businesses and consumers to spend their money locally instead of with big international companies like Amazon.
“I think it’s probably a good time for us to be thinking this way,” she said. “(Amazon) makes life simple, but we’re seeing that the models are affecting our community culturally.”
Partnerships between people in different areas of Southwest Colorado can help local businesses thrive, she said.
MCEDA has asked local business owners and members of the Mancos Creative District and the Durango-based group Local First to speak at the summit about how their organizations have become successful and how they plan to support one another for the whole region’s benefit.
In his keynote speech, Howard will talk about “community wealth building,” an economic model designed to help businesses and institutions, particularly large employers like banks and hospitals, improve the quality of life in their regions by using local resources. He has given similar presentations across the U.S. and in Europe.
The event will also include a morning panel with the owners of Montezuma County businesses such as the Four Seasons Greenhouse and The Farm Bistro, and three breakout sessions led by Howard, Sarah Syverson of the Mancos Creative District, Laurie Hall of The Farm Bistro and Monique DiGiorgio of Local First.
JoDee Powers, MCEDA’s economic development specialist, said she wants the summit to build on what Montezuma County’s businesses have already achieved.
“We recognize that Montezuma County has made significant strides in thinking locally,” she said. “Now we want to see what has been successful. What initiatives work? How can they be mimicked somewhere else?”
Hanson said about 60 people have registered for the summit, but she emphasized that its location, the Cortez Conference Center in Holiday Inn, can hold many more.
“For me, the more the merrier,” she said.
She said she hopes next week’s event will help “put (MCEDA) on the map” for business owners and organizations from outside Montezuma County. She and Powers plan to turn future economic summits into regional events, drawing guests from throughout the Four Corners.
For those hoping to attend this year’s summit, though, time is running out to purchase tickets. Hanson said guests must be registered by Monday. Tickets are available on MCEDA’s website under the “Events” tab.