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CDC ponders reserves, strategic plan

The board of the Pagosa Springs Economic Development Corporation was handed a preliminary budget and strategic plan at Monday’s meeting, presented by executive director Rich Lindblad, but at least one member of the board found the budget a step in the wrong direction.

After indicating that a preliminary budget had been prepared for the board’s consideration, Lindblad was interrupted by board member (and Archuleta County Commissioner) Michael Whiting who said, “I apologize, I don’t usually present documents at the last minute, and I don’t mean to ambush anyone, but I think it’s important that we consider an alternative to the budget Rich has presented.”

Whiting then passed around copies of his budget to the board, stating that he felt it was imprudent of the board to consider a budget that would draw off more than 60 percent of cash reserves to pay expenses over the next year.

“I’m glad you apologized, Michael,” said board member Mark Weiler, “because I do feel ambushed.”

“I wasn’t apologizing to you, Mark. I was apologizing to the board,” Whiting shot back.

Whiting continued, saying that his problems with the budget also included no line items, indicating no revenue from businesses or investors, while showing $110,000 in revenues from the town and county ($35,000 donated by the county, $75,000 from the town).

“We’re asking the taxpayers for money, and we’re willing to say we’re worth it, but we can’t say the same thing to businesses?” Whiting asked the board.

Weiler responded that the value of the PSCDC to taxpayers would be in new business generated, as well as jobs created by those businesses.

“I have a responsibility to the taxpayers,” Whiting responded, “That’s my job. We can’t expect this organization to survive if we’re funding it on the backs of taxpayers.”

Weiler disagreed, saying that the further economic development provided by the PSCDC would not only satisfy taxpayers, but would result in funding from businesses and investors.

“Well, I don’t see it. I want to see a plan and I don’t see anything like a plan,” Whiting said.

“Then, you’re being shortsighted, Michael,” Weiler replied. “Just because you say it loudly doesn’t make it fact.”

“That’s a lesson we both could learn,” Whiting said.

When asked by SUN staff if the PSCDC had a plan for fund-raising in the business community and if it would be providing a value statement for securing investments, Lindblad responded, “We’ll discuss that during our retreat.”

Although Lindblad had distributed a strategic plan for the PSCDC in 2012 at the start of Monday’s meeting, the plan did not include any concrete details for fund-raising or approaching local businesses for investment requests.

SUN staff asked when the retreat was scheduled. Although Lindblad could not provide a specific date, he said, “Sometime in January.”

“Do you mean to tell me that you won’t be finalizing your 2012 budget until sometime in January?” SUN staff asked.

“That’s right,” answered Lindblad.

However, Weiler told the board that he wanted the retreat to be held earlier. When asked how early, Weiler said, “How about Saturday (Dec. 10)? Is everyone good with Saturday?”

A quick consensus of the board scheduled the retreat for 9 a.m. Saturday. However, in an e-mail received by SUN staff yesterday morning, the PSCDC wrote, “Due to a schedule conflict, the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation Board meeting/retreat scheduled for Saturday, December 10th has been cancelled.

“This meeting will be rescheduled shortly. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”

Soon after, Whiting responded with an e-mail that read, “Sorry to hear that. Soon, I hope. Maybe we (and any other interested persons) could get together informally to work on the budget and fund-raising plan. As I said at the meeting, I think we are off to a good start, but need to work hard to have a solid, balanced package at the beginning of FY 2012. Let me know. Your success in this is our success, but we need to be respectful and accountable to the taxpayers on the front end, and throughout. That includes not relying entirely on them.”

The often-contentious budget discussion bled into potentially good news for the area when local Realtor Kim Moore addressed the board.

Speaking to the need of the PSCDC support from businesses and investors, Moore said, “We need to get a business here; we need revenues.”

Moore went on to tell the board that one of her clients had expressed a desire to relocate his large business to the area. Currently in Denver, Moore said that the client wanted to, “Get out of the city and move his company to a beautiful place like we have here.”

Saying that the company would provide between 50-100 jobs for light manufacturing and “a clean industry,” Moore added that her client’s requirements for relocating here would be for a 12,000-14,000 square-foot facility, accompanying office space, located near the airport and a skilled labor force (engineering, tool and die experience, machining skills, etc.).

“I don’t think that’s a huge factor,” Moore said, regarding the labor force needs, saying that Pagosa Springs could provide many of those skills through local workers.

However, Moore indicated that a concerted effort needed to be made soon. Saying that the company was also looking at Ogden, Utah, and Prescott, Ariz., Moore added that those communities were offering incentives such as tax credits, facilities and even cash in order to try and woo the potential new business.

“We need to outdo our competitors and we need to do it quickly,” Moore said.

Although seemingly pleased with Moore’s announcement, the board did not discuss potential options for pursuing the company.

Next year could be an interesting year for the PSCDC, one that could potentially define the organization’s role in local economics and politics. Although defined as a corporation (with accompanying investments and expected return on those investments), the PSCDC has still not gained legs enough to carry the organization towards a fully realized CDC. The introduction of a larger company to the area (along with 50-100 jobs) would most likely change that.

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