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Community Development Corp. to pick executive director

Having selected its board of directors, the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation is poised to select an executive director for the organization.

According to PSCDC board member (and county commissioner) John Ranson, the recently-selected board includes him, Pagosa Springs Mayor Ross Aragon, local business owner Bob Scott, La Plata Electric Association Line Supervisor Mike Alley and Education Center Executive Director Don Goodwin.

With a new board in place, the PSCDC has had a search process for an executive director underway during the past several weeks. Casting a wide net, the PSCDC has conducted a nationwide search for its new director.

“So far, we have 71 applications,” said Ranson, adding that almost all respondents are highly qualified. “The backgrounds are phenomenal,” he said, “and their level of enthusiasm has been exciting. They want to be a part of something new and exciting.”

Having fielded dozens of applications, the next step requires county staff to vet various applications, as County Administrator Greg Schulte and County Special Projects Manager Karin Kohake have been tasked with narrowing potential candidates down to a field of 12.

Eventually, the PSCDC hopes to whittle down the list to three candidates by early May, then schedule the final three for face-to-face interviews. Following the interviews, the board will make its hiring decision.

“Our goal is to have them on board by early June,” Ranson said.

While hiring an executive director should be a big step forward for the PSCDC, the board has already expressed support for a new industry in town: a biomass-fueled power plant.

The brainchild of local businessman J.R. Ford, the project should ultimately employ about 20 people, including three process engineers. To be located at Cloman Park, the plant would convert wood materials gathered from nearby forests into a flammable substance, which in turn would fuel a large generator that ultimately yields electricity — a 4- to 5-megawatt power plant. Once the plant is online and proven viable, Ford plans to expand operations to put more electricity into the local power grid.

Aside from formal support for the project, the PSCDC would assist the project in pursuing appropriate grant funding to help offset start-up costs for the estimated $17-$20 million project.

With one project in the works to employ local workers and infuse the area with much needed capital, the PSCDC is moving to encourage more business and industry to move to the county. Working to deploy a Rapid Response Team, the PSCDC hopes to have a mechanism in place that would answer business prospect inquiries. Essentially, the RRT would provide a community profile for prospects, making them aware of available properties and infrastructure, as well as local assets. The PSCDC hopes to have its RRT in place by late spring.

With the Town of Pagosa Springs committing $50,000 to the PSCDC this year and the county providing another $30,000, along with a transfer of the Archuleta Economic Development Association’s transfer of around $175,000 in assets, the PSCDC has a good start from internal and governmental funding. However, once an executive director is on board and established, it will be up to that person to begin securing funding from local businesses, as well as state and federal grants.

Both the town and county have made it clear that their commitment to funding the PSCDC is limited. In fact, by definition, a CDC should not only become self-funding, but should, within a few years, provide a return on investment to the various stakeholders supporting the organization. As such, a correct choice for the PSCDC’s executive director is not just an important decision in the immediate future, but ultimately will determine the survival and viability of the organization.