Tourism bill would allow counties to cooperate

DENVER — Montrose resident Richard Harding hopes a bill that cleared its first hurdle in a House committee Tuesday will lead to the creation of a new panel that would help six Western Slope counties boost tourism.

The measure, House Bill 1006, introduced by freshman Rep. Don Coram, changes a 2009 law that called for the creation of regional tourism authority boards.

Under that law, regional authorities would be approved by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade in October to oversee long-term plans to boost tourism and create jobs.

Harding said the bill was needed because the law didn’t consider that more than one county might want to get together to create an authority. If left alone, the existing law would require the panel Harding wants to create to have 104 board members.

But under the Montrose Republican’s bill, his first since getting elected to House District 58 last fall, that number would be pared down to four people from each county.

“Having a board that size, you’d never get anything done,” Coram told the House Economic and Business Development Committee moments before it unanimously approved the measure. “The best news of all is this will help bring economic development to western Colorado.”

Harding said the measure will help his area’s application to being named one of the two regional authorities in the state. He’s working to get the six counties to sign intergovernmental agreements to create the Gunnison River Economic Attraction Team.

If chosen, that authority would receive state grant money and the ability to get sales tax rebates from any increase in tourism from businesses within it. That money would be used by the authority to pay for such things as tourism promotion, infrastructure or new signage, he said.

Harding said he first thought up plans for the authority in 2001 when Congress redesignated the Black Canyon of the Gunnison as a national park, saying a long-range, regional tourism plan was necessary to make the park and area businesses successful.

He said it just made sense for the six counties — Montrose, Ouray, Delta, Hinsdale, Gunnison and San Miguel — to come together because each is reliant on the others when it comes to tourism.

“When people come to Telluride, it affects the economy in Montrose and Ouray,” he said. “When people go to Curecanti National Recreation Area, they also go other places in the six counties. It makes sense for us to join together.”

Coram’s bill heads to the full House for more debate.


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