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Strengths and weaknesses in economic development for Huerfano County

by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- The Governor’s Bottom-Up Program survey will show both strengths and weaknesses as they are viewed by the citizens and business owners of Huerfano County. A total of 23 people attended the presentation and answered the survey questions. “These answers will be part of the permanent record of the program and will be taken into account as the governor’s office works up its plan,” Huerfano County Administrator John Galusha said.
The state is still receiving survey forms online. To fill one out go to the following address: and click the words Bottom Up. They are in red on the right side of the page. On the page that appears click the “online survey” box on the left side of the page. Then click the words “Survey Link” found in blue on the page titled Online Survey. The survey form will appear. It takes five to ten minutes to fill it out. The survey will be available online for the next 30 days.
The first question on the survey asks respondents to identify the economic strengths of the county. Respondents could select up to five categories. Eighty-seven percent of those answering the survey noted that Huerfano County’s best economic strength is renewable energy potential with tourism assets drawing 82.6 percent. Local health care facilities came in third drawing around 65 percent.
Economic weaknesses followed with close to 74 percent saying that Huerfano County businesses needed better local resources for capital such as business loans. Nearly 70 percent noted that Huerfano County lacked a well-trained workforce. Three categories with close to 44 percent in each identified lack of strong community leadership, lack of an effective economic development organization and a lack of a quality local or regional school system as economic weaknesses in the county.
For the question asking about threats and limitations to economic development, 78 percent of respondents noted flight of the area’s youth as the primary threat to the region’s economy. Lack of labor force training and vacant main street businesses both garnered nearly 61 percent of response. And nearly 57 percent identified lack of access to capital as a threat to the area’s economic development.
When opportunity knocks, a solid 87 percent of the survey’s respondents said that tourist attractions presented the county with its best economic opportunity. Available land and attractive communities and quality of life were next on the list of opportunities.
Creation of new jobs took the top spot with nearly 70 percent of the respondents indicating that to be the most important of economic development goals. That was closely followed by 56.5 percent noting that the local labor force needed to increase its job skills and 52.2 percent saying that the local or regional school system needed to improve.
Other responses considered private-public partnerships to improve the business climate as well as what the state might do to help bring about economic development.
The information gathered by the survey will help the Governor’s office of Economic Development put together a statewide economic development plan.