By Roger Zalneraitis
Executive Director La Plata Economic Development Alliance
Hello, Four Corners Business Journal readers! I am delighted that the Business Journal has offered the La Plata Economic Development Alliance the opportunity to talk to residents about our organization, what we do and how we can help businesses here. I'd like to start by talking about what economic development is and why it's important for Durango and La Plata County.
Economic development is primarily about growing wealth in a region. At the local level, this means finding ways to bring new money into a community.
Different areas will use different approaches to accomplish this. Usually the goal is driven by what the community needs to be more successful. For example, an impoverished neighborhood might focus on increasing capital investment, while a city that has lost its largest employer might concentrate on job training for the unemployed.
Here in La Plata County, we have two very strong industries that bring new money into our
We at the Alliance think of these as "two legs" of the stool that holds up the local economy.
As the image implies, a two-legged stool can be a bit wobbly. We experienced that in 2008, when both natural gas prices and the housing markets plummeted. Therefore, the focus on economic development for La Plata County is to build a "third leg" to make our economy more stable.
This third leg is base, or primary, businesses. These are businesses that export goods or services out of La Plata County, thus bringing in new money that sustains other businesses, families and residential services here.
We are fortunate because we already have a number of great base businesses ranging from well-known firms like Mercury Payment Systems, StoneAge Waterblast Tools and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory to rising stars like Freenotes Harmony Park, Chinook Medical Gear and Soundtraxx.
The goal of the Alliance is to help these and other firms like them grow to create that healthier, more balanced economy. This will provide more good-paying jobs to attract and keep people here, while also ensuring that our children will be able to find solid job opportunities locally when they grow up.
I would also like to clarify what economic development is not. Economic development is not about making the population grow faster. It is not about unchecked sprawl and turning our towns into "Anywhere, USA". It is not about weakening our tourism or natural resource industries. It is not about spending millions of local government dollars on incentives. None of those things would make our region wealthier. A good job base will contribute, not take away from, our region's quality of life.
The best way to build a job base that contributes to our quality of life is by strengthening the business environment. That means our base companies have access to the talent, finance, space and services they need to grow and flourish. As access to these and other resources improves, it helps start new companies, grow existing businesses and attract other firms to locate here.
To learn more, feel free to check out our website at www.yeslpc.com.
Roger Zalneraitis is executive director of the La Plata Economic Development Alliance in Durango.