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Multiple Irons in the Fire: Region 10’s multiple economic development projects

Multiple Irons in the Fire: Region 10’s multiple economic development projects

Region 10 has numerous irons in the fire at the moment. Currently, the organization is in the midst of several critical projects that focus on three specific community and economic development issues: broadband, economic diversification, and transit. Since these projects are currently overlapping, we thought that it would be best to provide updates on each of these initiatives so that our members can stay informed.

Broadband

As many know, internet services and broadband capacity are limited on the Western Slope. With funding secured from a Department of Local Affairs grant and the support of a diverse collection of community stakeholders, Region 10 is tackling broadband implementation planning at a regional level across six very different counties.

In June 2014, the broadband steering committee issued a RFP for consultation. After careful consideration, the group awarded NEO Fiber, a technologically savvy consulting group based in Carbondale, with the task of creating a detailed broadband implementation plan. The plan will identify the costs, engineering details, and funding mechanisms for “shovel ready” projects for each participating community. Each community will then be able to leverage NEO Fiber’s findings for additional grant funding or private financing. The ultimate goal is to increase the affordability, capacity, and redundancy of broadband internet throughout our six-county region.

NEO Fiber, Region 10, and the broadband steering committee will have hosted a dozen community meetings all over the six-county region. Representatives from anchor institutions (e.g., schools, hospitals, government, etc.) attended to discuss their current level of service, their needs, and their goals. In addition, NEO Fiber has hosted open conversations with current internet providers to see what current infrastructure is currently in place, and how can these providers collaborate with existing communities to potentially forge public-private partnerships that improve internet service for businesses and residences. In addition to these meetings, NEO Fiber is in its initial phases of engineering scoping for the various communities.

NEO Fiber is one month into their nine month commitment. To stay updated on the latest developments, please frequent region10.net/broadband for the latest information.

Economic Diversification

It is common for small rural communities in Colorado to depend heavily upon one particular industry for jobs and tax revenue. When the Oxbow coal mines (located near the county lines for Delta and Gunnison) closed, this common dependency became more prevalent. Senator Mark Udall called upon the Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Administration to help Delta and Gunnison County alleviate the potential downfall of this economic disaster and rebuild their economies to be resilient and diversified.

Region 10 and community stakeholders from each county gathered together to create a potential scope of work and grant proposal addressed to the EDA. The proposal outlined the need for detailed market analysis and feasibility studies for potential industries to attract to Delta and Gunnison Counties – all coming from an unbiased, third party. Fortunately, the EDA awarded a substantial grant to the group for these efforts.

Currently, the group has hosted its initial stakeholders meeting in late September. The group will reconvene in October with the goal of releasing a final RFP by mid-October. Region 10 will make certain to do a media blast when the RFP is officially released. However, if you are a consultant who specializes in economic development, please be sure to check region10.net/rfp for the latest updates.

What is unique about this project is that Delta – a predominately agricultural based community – and Gunnison – a tourism hub complete with ski resort and regional university – represent the diversity of Region 10. Ideally, the findings of this study may be replicated in other outlying communities who identify with either Delta or Gunnison based on their unique qualities.

Transit

Region 10 and the Three Rivers Regional Transit Coordinating Council (3RRTCC) released a RFP targeting proposals that would help expand and improve transit services on the Western Slope. In 2013, Region 10 released the “Four County Study Update”, which provides a good amount of detail and analysis about commuter routes and services available. With additional funding secured from the Colorado Department of Transportation, the 3RRTCC wanted to develop a more comprehensive and implementation ready plan that develops cost-effective and creative strategies to broaden transit services. Most importantly, the plan would identify funding mechanisms available to secure these programs.

Region 10 and 3RRTCC originally released the RFP back in June. However, the group decided to revise the scope of the proposal so that it was more closely aligned with CDOT requirements and the needs of various communities.

Michelle Haynes, Executive Director of Region 10, will be presenting information about this transit project during Heidi’s traditional morning talks in November. (Once the date is confirmed, we will update.)

If your community would like more information about any of these projects or for Region 10 to present on them to a larger group, please feel free to contact us at (970) 249-2436.

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