EDCC Regional Economic Development Forum for Eastern Colorado
March 22, 2019 - On March 12, CWDC staff traveled to Hugo, Colo., to attend the EDCC Regional Economic Development Forum focusing on eastern Colorado. The forum enables the EDCC to gain a deeper understanding of the area’s challenges and opportunities and help communities develop their local economies. More than 130 statewide economic development stakeholders were in attendance.
Tammy Fields, the EDCC board chair, kicked off the event with an overview of the EDCC and it’s core mission. Other morning sessions focused on the benefits of using a regional approach to economic development and examining how the Eastern Plains can take advantage of modern agricultural technology and support the growth of the precision agriculture industry.
During the keynote session, OEDIT Executive Director Betsey Markey shared Governor Polis’ economic development goals and strategies for rural Colorado. As part of the new administration’s overarching goal of fostering a strong economy that works for everyone, Governor Polis is placing focus on rural economic development and working with OEDIT, DOLA, and the Department of Agriculture to maximize rural impact. Markey discussed various incentive and technical assistance programs available to rural communities to help achieve these goals. One such program is the Colorado Concierge Training Platform, available in June, which will enable regional workers to learn about their local area and attractions in order to help them better promote the region to visitors.
Following Markey’s keynote address, Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera expanded on the new administration’s focus on supporting the rural healthcare system. A hospital is typically the largest employer in a rural community, and yet rural hospitals face unique economic challenges. On a panel with local healthcare professions, Primavera discussed these challenges, such as an aging infrastructure, as well as creative solutions to help attract and grow talent to support the healthcare industry.
One of the final sessions of the forum focused on the labor shortage and building rural communities with a skilled labor force. Members on the panel shared approaches that educators, businesses, and workforce professionals are using to address the skills gap, such as “train-cation” programs that allow local students to tour hospitals and other facilities to learn about potential careers.
Suggestions for building infrastructure to promote economic development were also shared. Developments such as coworking spaces can provide rural workers with access to broadband (a common concern in rural areas) as well as a sense of community with other workers. Laying the necessary infrastructure is key to building sustainable, thriving communities that can attract talent and maintain a competitive workforce.