by Larry Patrick
HUERFANO- Faced with the closing of the CCA prison, Duckwalls and other businesses recently, a group of government and local business leaders met Monday in Walsenburg to look at forming an economic development group to get Walsenburg and Huerfano County moving forward.
The idea has been spear-headed by former Walsenburg mayor, Edi Sheldon. Twenty people, including Walsenburg City Administrator Alan Hein, Huerfano County Commissioner Art Bobian, Loretta Kennedy- Administrative Aid to Congressman John Salazar, and Lee Merkel of the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) discussed the process of moving Huerfano County ahead.
While there is a current economic development group that has maintained the ownership of the Spanish Peaks Apartments in Walsenburg for many years, it was felt a new group needed to be formed to aggressively handle future growth.
Merkel stated it was premature to set up a new economic development group without first getting some energy going in the county and talking with officials from Las Animas and/or Custer County, the Huerfano County groups such as the Huerfano County Chamber and La Veta/ Cuchara Chamber, the Council of Governments, South-central Economic Development, Small Business Administration and other groups to get input and work out a strong plan. Merkel felt that then it would be apropriate to work to form a new economic development group that takes the strengths that the other groups offer to help make it successful. Those in attendance agreed.
Commissioner, Art Bobian said, “It is time to take some calculated risks in order to move forward.”
Sheldon said there are some grants available to help get the group started when it is ready to form.
The overall consensus is that work needs to be done to raise Huerfano County’s self-image and set some priorities.
The meeting ended with some people in attendance having duties to get information gathered and talk to various groups and organizations on meeting again on Mon. March 29 at 5:30 at the Huerfano County Community Center in Walsenburg. Those interested in the project are welcome to attend.