by Larry Patrick
HUERFANO- A group of Walsenburg businesses, Huerfano County Chamber of Commerce and concerned citizens met again this week to work toward setting up an active economic development group. Al Tucker chaired the meeting for Edi Sheldon, who could not attend. Pete Frazier of the South Central Council of Government told the group that Walsenburg is in an enhanced enterprise zone and that Colorado Economic Development has money for a 501(c)3 economic development group.
Frazier was told that there already was an ED group in Walsenburg but they have not been very active. Ed Johnson spoke up by saying that he and four other people have kept an economic development group going over the years to protect the investment that Huerfano County has in the Spanish Peaks Apartments. He admitted his group has not been real active over the years because of a lack of money. Frazier then told the group that they should work with the current ED group because they already have a 501(c)3. There has been some unwillingness to work with the current group but Frazier said having two organizations working against each other is not the way to go. Most of those in attendance agreed and Johnson said he would set up a meeting with his board to meet with this organization to see if they can work out solutions and move forward. The meeting was set up for Wed. May 6 at 6 pm at the Huerfano County Community Center.
Mike Aragon of the Trinidad-Las Animas County Economic Development organization agreed with Frazier, saying that people in Huerfano County need to work together for the greatest impact of moving forward. Frazier said that she had a pool of money to assist Huerfano County businesses with displaced workers and paying part of their salary. That caught the attention of numerous business owners and the Huerfano County Chamber of Commerce. There is also money available for weatherization projects for homeowners in Huerfano County.
John Carlson outlined some ideas for the group on planning for the future of Walsenburg and what citizens may or may not want. Carlson said the area needs to define what it wants and what it is willing to do to make it happen.
Beth Neece of the City of Walsenburg told attendees that things are looking positive for getting the sewer lines built for the Northland area of Walsenburg. The Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) is close to providing $700,000 in funding and the USDA appears ready to provide a loan/grant for the project, with the grant being matched with in-kind work by city employees in building the water-sewer lines. By getting the water-sewer lines in at Northlands, development of that area for new commercial businesses is expected to benefit the entire city and provide jobs and sales tax revenue while attracting more visitors to stop along I-25 and travel into downtown Walsenburg.
The meeting ended on a positive note of what could be done but cooperation among the two groups was stressed by Frazier and Aragon to move things along. The May 6 meeting is open to anyone interested in economic development of the area.