By Mary Jo Coulehan
Special to The SUN
In January and February, the business community was asked to take a one-question survey: What are the top three needs facing you and your business in 2020? The results are in and several answers are no surprise.
The top issue facing businesses is the availability of quality workforce. The second top issue coming in at only one vote difference is broadband service. The third and fourth top issues, which came in at half of the votes as the top two issues but still no less important, were housing and business logistics, which includes permitting, licensing, signage, etc. with town and county agencies.
As mentioned, these issues are no surprise as how they affect doing business in Pagosa Springs. But what can the Pagosa Springs Area Chamber of Commerce do now to improve the problems and help you do business easier?
If we can help create a better-prepared workforce, will that help you so that you can focus on other activities in your business?
If broadband was more easily accessible and at higher speeds, could you just cross that issue off your list and not have to worry about Internet accessibility?
What are the next steps? Let’s take broadband first. The Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation has actively been working on connecting with Internet service providers (ISPs) to improve the capability of broadband especially through the U.S. 160 corridor through the town- and county-owned SCAN fiber. This capability is now a reality with one ISP able to provide 1 gig of service in certain areas to businesses at a reasonable rate. There are several other ISPs interested in leasing fiber to upgrade or provide their services to businesses as well. One gig — that’s huge.
If you are along the U.S. 160 corridor and are interested in upgrading your service, visit www.archuletacountybroadband.com and contact the broadband service management office for more information and to see if your location qualifies. This is very viable for cluster businesses or those that require a lot of upload speed. If you work from home, service in some of the outlaying areas are soon to improve.
Through a grant with the Department of Local Affairs and matching funds from Archuleta County and the Town of Pagosa Springs, Mammoth Communications received a $466,000 grant. There will be equipment upgrades in Aspen Springs, upper Piedra, Chromo, Arboles and more. CAF II funds were also significantly utilized, and we hope to have the CenturyLink work that was accomplished in the summer of 2019 up and running to many areas throughout Pagosa. Stay tuned for more detailed information on these improvements.
The Chamber is poised to work on the workforce issue with Archuleta School District. We know we must “grow our own talent” and mentor those young adults to enter the workforce. We must also engage those moving into Pagosa to find relevant jobs to their skill sets. If you are a business owner and would like to be involved in working on this initiative, please contact Mary Jo at the Chamber. In January, the Chamber and Pagosa Springs High School hosted Career Day. Over 35 business owners volunteered their time to speak to high school students about the various industries in our community. We are also working with Pueblo Community College to have a better presence in our community. But there is a lot of work to be done in the many facets of the workforce arena. We need your help.
The Chamber board is dedicated to working on the major issues that surfaced from this survey. In the upcoming months, we will be releasing to the business community our plan of action for 2020. It certainly involves working and collaborating with many agencies in our community. Everyone must realize that it does not take just one effort or one conversation to change the way we do business for the better. It will also take the engagement of the business community. If you want to see and affect change, you must be a part of the conversation. Please think about dedicating some time to make the way we do business better. All of these issues require a village to correct. The Chamber of Commerce looks forward to tackling the concerns and moving the needle in a positive direction to help our businesses.
Chamber releases business survey results
By Mary Jo Coulehan