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Pagosa to host growth strategies symposium

Next Thursday, Aug. 9, local entrepreneur Jerry Smith will bring together a number of sustainable energy luminaries from throughout the state to meet in Pagosa Springs for a “Growth Strategies for Colorado’s Rural and Resort Communities” symposium.

“This symposium format is a little bit different,” Smith told SUN staff on Tuesday, stressing the emphasis on community involvement in the proceedings.

“The idea of this one is that the presenters are going to capsulize their ideas and what they’ve learned in short, 20-25 minute presentations. Then, they’ll each host lunch tables where attendees can decide who they want to sit with and talk to and ask questions of and share ideas with. Then, when we come back in … the moderator will summarize discussions from each table, put the big ideas up on the board in the hour and a half remaining. Then, we’ll go to a networking type of reception.”

Those presenters represent some of the heavy hitters addressing sustainable energy issues in the west.

Among those bringing their knowledge, experience and ideas are Miriam Horn, New York Times bestselling author (her book, “Earth: The Sequel” has been made into a Nova documentary on PBS) and director of the Smart Grid Initiative and the Environmental Defense Fund; Norbert Kleble, master of Geos and a leading advocate for rethinking the construction industry and municipal planning in order to reduce energy consumption by as much as 75 percent; Lori Smith Schell, Ph.D., a leading expert in energy policy analysis, as well as founder and president of Empowered Energy; Pagosa’s own J.R. Ford, a local entrepreneur whose five-megawatt biomass energy plant is set to go online next year; and five other experts in the field of renewable, sustainable energy.

Smith said that county commissioners, state representatives and senators, other government officials and investors in clean energy programs will be on hand.

Smith said that the purpose of the symposium is to, “Present business opportunities crafted to shared values and resources,” adding that, “The goal is collaborative statewide energy towards investment and growth in the economies of rural Colorado communities.”

“Throughout Colorado,” Smith said, “there’s a constant question about how do we grow but not exploit the things that brought us here, the grandeur, the beauty, all the things that bring the tourists, and how do we use the science, that’s creating new opportunities, in the best possible way?”

Smith added that differences between stakeholders, potential investors, state residents and environmentalists often end up in controversy — and stasis — with little progress towards achieving economic development or tapping into potential sustainable energy resources.

Conceding that those various and diverse voices all have legitimate concerns, Smith said, “The purpose of this symposium is to get all these people together and give them a chance to know each other and discuss the issues that concern them all in a forum that’s moderated by people with a breadth of experience and demonstrable success.”

To make that happen, Smith’s company, Pagosa Verde, requests that those interested in attending register at by clicking the link for the symposium and filling out the form. As a reward, registrants not only get the opportunity to meet with some of the state’s finest minds working towards new energy and economic paradigms, but also to receive free breakfast and lunch and to attend a reception following the symposium.

To those ends, Smith thanked the Town of Pagosa Springs, the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation, Region 9 Southwest Colorado Economic Development District, the Pagosa Springs Chamber of Commerce and Town Tourism Committee for financial and material support for the symposium, as well as members of the Pagosa Springs Lodgers Association for donating rooms for visiting presenters (who are sharing their expertise gratis).

“I’d like for the rest of the people of Archuleta County to understand that this is for them, too, and that the rest of the state sees us as a beacon of community unity,” Smith said. “As a community, we should be proud of ourselves. The rest of the state is seeing leadership from us. My goal is to make this a yearly thing. The fact is, if we’re going to develop a technology cluster and a business cluster in this town, we need to continue to brand ourselves. This is a great opportunity.”

The symposium begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Ross Aragon Community Center on Thursday, Aug. 9, and continues until 5 p.m., at which time the reception begins.

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