The Leadville Lake County Economic Development Corporation asked the Board of County Commissioners to increase the county’s annual contribution to the EDC by over $60,000 at a meeting Monday morning. If the BOCC agrees to the budget ask, Lake County will donate over $140,000 to the EDC in 2020.

If granted, much of the county’s 2020 EDC contribution would go towards increasing the organization’s executive director’s salary from about $60,000 to $100,000. The EDC is currently operating without an executive director or administrative assistant.

The EDC Board of Directors also asked the BOCC to commit to the annual funding for five years with a three percent annual increase.

“This is what we need to bring and keep a professional here,” LLCEDC Vice President John Wells told the commissioners. “Uncertainty drives people away.”

When the EDC’s board and the commissioners met to discuss the future of the organization in September, the BOCC clarified that the county would like the EDC to focus on “high-level” economic development needs like infrastructure, internet connectivity and new-business attraction.

The EDC board then took the BOCC’s priorities back to the drawing board and developed a new set of 2020 goals.

One goal is for the EDC to develop a county-wide infrastructure plan and find funding for infrastructure development, for example extending the sewer system to the airport industrial park.

Another is to bring businesses whose products and services are not currently available in Lake County, or who could benefit from high-altitude testing needs, to the area.

The EDC also aims to act as a resource for developers and business owners interested in taking advantage of the Leadville Urban Renewal Authority, historic tax credits, opportunity zone funding, and other such incentives.

According to Wells, a substantial salary increase is necessary to attract candidates for the executive director position who possess the high-level skill set necessary to undertake such work.

The EDC will wait for a contribution commitment from the BOCC before starting the hiring process. If all goes well, the EDC hopes to have an executive director in place by 2020.

The EDC’s lower-level economic development work, like its free business-mentor and training programs, are also on the agenda for 2020 in conjunction with the Central Mountain Small Business Development Center (CMSBDC).

CMSBDC, which opened in Salida in August and will serve Chaffee, Park and Lake County, is the fifteenth office in the state’s network of small business development centers. The center is also the first to be added to the network since the 1980s. The BOCC committed $3,000 from this year’s budget and about $5,000 from the 2020 budget to be part of CMSBDC.

The center is headed by Buena Vista resident Jamie Billesbach, who comes to CMSBDC with decades of marketing experience for specialty food companies, her own consulting firm and the Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce. Billesbach will primarily work out of Salida with regular business hours and programming in Leadville.

Representatives from the EDC and CMSBDC met last month to discuss goals, services and event planning, the first of many meetings in an effort to avoid duplication of services.

CMSBDC’s role in economic development is already playing out in Salida. Billesbach is in the process of taking over many of the Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation’s hands-on programs, leaving Chaffee EDC Director Wendell Pryor to work on high-level economic development projects like Colorado Mountain College’s potential Salida campus and affordable housing.

Billesbach is still working on developing CMSBDC’s systems, website and relationships with business mentors. The center will put on a series of workshops throughout the Arkansas Valley covering topics like human resources, Google Analytics, Amazon, social media and storytelling this fall. In 2020, Billesbach hopes to begin regular Leadville business hours.

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