2017 Feb General Membership Meeting
General Membership Meeting looks at regional economic growth
By Kathryn R. Burke
[February 16, 2017. Montrose] The quarterly General Membership Meeting of the Montrose Association of REALTORS® (MAR) was held at the new Recreation Center. Three guest speakers discussed their visions, and the impact of the organizations they represent, regarding economic growth, community improvements, and the impact on both to the area.
Ken Sherbenou, Executive Director of Montrose’s new Rec. Center, talked about how that facility adds to the city’s amenities, making Montrose more attractive to new residents and businesses. Sandy Head, Executive Director of Montrose Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), shared information about past, present, and future projects backed by that organization, which is committed to helping the City of Montrose. Michelle Haynes, Executive Director of Region 10, discussed Region 10’s role in the communities they work with, including Montrose, Delta, and Gunnison. The symbiotic relationship between MEDC and Region 10 was illuminating—lots of good information and lots of new information.
Montrose new Community Recreation Center
The Rec. Center was three decades in the making, Sherbenou, said. The master plan was completed in 2011, a ballot initiative (which failed) was attempted in 2012, and successfully passed in 2014. Construction began, with completion in early 2017. The Montrose’s facility, at 82,000 Sq. Ft., has more amenities and is the largest on the western slope, contrasted to Delta (53,000 Sq. Ft.), Cortez, and Durango (the model for this center). During the 3-day soft opening in January, 11,000 people visited the center and sign-ups for annual memberships passed their goal. Sherbenou said plans call for the center to grow with the community, adding an outdoor pool in 5-8 years.
Montrose Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)
Discussing the mission of MEDC, Executive Director Sandy Head said it is their goal to increase jobs and strengthen the economy. “We work to diversify the community and look for employers who will provide good jobs,” she said. When sugar beets, once the mainstay of Montrose’s agriculture industrry, went out, MEDC helped to bring Russell Stover Candies to Montrose (400-500 jobs per year). Over time, MEDC developed three business parks and helped 40 companies (over a number of years) move into Montrose. Twenty of those companies are still here, including Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) and Montriose Forest Products.
Although MEDC promotes primary employers, it also works to develop agricultural crops. “A lot of work is going on right now in the hemp industry, especially its use in the building industry,” Head said. The discussion that followed was not only fascinating, but showed the depth and breadth of MEDC’s involvement in bringing new jobs and industry to the area. Head explained that because marijuana is legal in Colorado, hemp is aalso legal. Hemp is considered a controlled substance as far as the federal government is concerned, even though it’s THC level (the component that makes you “high”) is below intoxication levels. Another problem is that the water that would be used to irrigate the hemp flows through three federal projects. And finally, hemp seed cannot be imported unless it is approved by the DEA and is requested in combination with a university for a research project. Colorado Mesa University can import the seed. It’s a complex issue, but so far, thanks to MEDC’s efforts, it is likely to come to fruition. “We are working with a lot of different entities to try to make this happen.” According to an article, dated January 22, 2017, in the Montrose Daily Press, hemp has the City’s blessing. Now it’s up to MEDC and others in the industry to work through the federal issues.
Discussing Urban Renewal projects, and how entities from outside of Colorado can re-locate here, Head explained, “Prospects come from many sources. If the State has a prospect, they work through MEDC, which in turn works with our local government partners.” She cited the Mayfly Outdoor project, which originally had planned to locate in Durango. Tax incentives and matching grant funds usually are a major part of the draw, as they were in this case. In 2013, Mayfly bought Ross Reels (another MEDC project) and two other companies in California and Washington. the City and County [of Montrose] assisted with an incentive package that helped retain Ross Reels in Montrose. The owners have since developed the Colorado Outdoor Project, which will include a mix of commercial, residential, and industrial development along the river, in a once-blighted area. A small pond is also envisioned, for practicing fly fishing.
Head also pointed out the complex relationships between various projects and the need for collaboration in communities. Mayfly intends to have a hotel as part of their development, for example, and if the new event center at the fairgrounds had been voted down by the Board of County Commissioners, “then the hotel in that development would have gone away.” She also advised Realtors® that if they have a lead on a company that might want to be part of the river area,they may go directly to David Dragoo, at Mayfly Outdoors. firstname.lastname@example.org
Region 10 (representing Delta, Gunnison, Montrose, Ouray, Hinsdale, and San Miguel counties)
Speaking about Region 10, Executive Director Michelle Haynes explained they are a government member organization and work very closely with MEDC. Although Region 10 is best known for their Area Agency on Aging—“Half of our budget provides support to help the elderly age in place,” Haynes said—“Region 10 also has a strong focus on regional economic development.”
For example, the organization (which is non-profit and run by a board of directors, just like the Rec. Center and MEDC), has been involved in a broadband study. “It’s a $15 million project,” she noted, adding that Delta is 99% built out. Montrose is about 30%.
“We are also looking at a riverfront project in Delta, much like the City of Montrose is working on in Montrose,” Haynes said. “We make sure business infrastructure is in place and run 11 to 12 projects a year, working on major things like broadband and the Rec. Center.”
Region 10 works directly with small businesses. They can partner with banks to do loans, “up to $30,000-70,000 is a good amount for us,” she said, “although we can and do loan larger amounts. If they are bringing in jobs, we have a program to loan them up to $20,000 per job.” Region 10 also provides 1:1 business counseling.
“We need to continue to attract families in order to keep our communities vibrant,” Haynes said. To that end, they are working in Montrose West End to develop a focus on outdoor recreation (replacing lost jobs in the coal industry there as the power plant shuts down). They are also helping in Ridgway and Paonia, to develop live/work projects as part of the state’s “Space to Create” program. Affordable housing is a problem in both communities.
Summing up the vision of all three speakers, Haynes said, “As we grow our economy all together, it’s good for the entire western slope. What’s good for Delta is good for Montrose. What’s good for Montrose is good for Delta. What’s good for Ridgway and Ouray is good for the rest of the Western Slope. What we need is diversity where we can grow a steady economy and not have these boom and bust times.”
Related articles and information.
“Congratulations to Mayfly Outdoors!”
“Mayfly Outdoors plans river corridor revamp”
“City of Montrose and Partners Reel in Mayfly Outdoors Through Business Development Partnership”
“State blesses hemp company’s move to Montrose”
Region 10. http://www.region10.net/
“New Ridgway collaborative space seeks feedback from creatives”
“What do demographics say about the future of our economy?”
Region 10 recently hosted the Grow Our Economy summit. This event addressed economic development trends in Delta, Gunnison, Montrose, Ouray, Hinsdale, and San Miguel counties.…
Montrose Recreation Center. http://www.montroserec.com/
“The Montrose Community Recreation Center Earns a $500,000 Grant”
“$28 Million Rec. Center ‘Decades’ in the Making Coming to Montrose, Colorado”
“New $29 million Montrose Recreation Center to open in early 2017”