Governor looks for ideas on boosting economy

Gov. John Hickenlooper took his boosting-jobs-and-the-economy show on the road Friday, gathering ideas from local business owners, elected officials and government economic development experts about how to help counties and the state climb out of the recession.

The newly minted Democratic governor said the gatherings he is doing around the state aren’t about politics or ideologies, but getting everyone to help others and themselves in bringing a lasting recovery to the state.

Hickenlooper said he wants to know what each community already is doing to promote business in their areas, how those ideas could help others in the state, and what they need to do or aren’t doing to create jobs in their local economies.

He said the state needs to be more business friendly, but it shouldn’t sacrifice government regulations already in place at the expense of the environment or consumer protection.

“We need to have our business community stronger, and we have to change the way each of us think about business and be more pro-business,” Hickenlooper told about 150 people from 11 counties in the region who gathered at the Fruita Community Center.

“I’m not saying we go out and reduce the safeguards that I think are appropriate for our natural landscapes, our air and water,” he said. “We want to make sure we preserve them, but this state can be more dramatically supportive of our business community.”

Several of those ideas centered on promoting tourism, boosting coal and natural gas production and improving broadband connections for rural parts of the state.

Some were concerned the $1 billion revenue shortfall the state is facing next year will lead to the closure of state parks or community colleges, saying both are vital to their area’s economy. Others said they need help promoting themselves.

“We’re kind of in silos,” Gunnison County Commissioner Paula Swenson said. “We’re not telling our story very well.”

Diane Schwenke, president of the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, said the governor needs to make sure small businesses will have a voice in whatever statewide economic development plan he comes up with.

“I want to make sure that when you do these plans, that you have the real innovators in this state, which are the small-business people and the business folks at the table, because it takes one to know one,” she told the governor. “That’s where your best ideas are going to come from in terms of developing an economic development plan.”


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