August 5, 2019 Op-Ed
Routt County Economic Health
When one thinks about economic health, resilience and development, it’s possible to think county government doesn’t have a lot to do with how the economy functions and operates. That thought is far from correct. County government is quite active in creating economic vitality and supporting the backbone of a healthy community.
Routt County, through the efforts afforded by taxpayer dollars, funds large direct and indirect efforts for economic health and prosperity. The county believes a healthy, vibrant community leads to a strong economy. Community development creates the place and environment that residents want to live and work in, as well as a place that drives migration into the county while sustaining quality of life. The county invests in community vitality and a broad range of economic health efforts, including the following.
Routt County partners with the Steamboat Springs Chamber and the city of Steamboat to fund a program to monitor and enhance countywide economic health and stability. The program was successful in getting all of Routt County eligible for the Rural Jump Start program — a Colorado economic development incentive program — as well as getting all of Routt County eligible for Enterprise Tax qualification. County also supports the Business Development Center in partnership with Colorado Mountain College and others.
County Roads and Bridges
The county maintains more than 849 miles of roads —160 hard surfaced — 106 major bridges and more than 300 minor bridges. The system allows ranch products to be transported from farm to market and public land access for hunting and recreation.
Yampa Valley Regional Airport is a valuable, year-round transportation asset but, most importantly, during the winter ski season as it provides direct flights from national hubs. The airport, sporting a 10,000-foot runway with a modern airport terminal, is the first and last place people see when they visit the Yampa Valley for winter experiences. Numbers show that 70% of winter destination travelers arrive through the airport.
Open working landscapes
Partnering with our municipalities to absorb commercial and residential growth, Routt County’s land use regulations — 35 minimum acre lot size — as well as our Purchase of Development Rights program, are integral to continuing to make the county’s views appealing to visitors as well as residents. When you go to the unincorporated county, you are pleasantly in the country.
County governmental services are critical for the support of strong economic development. Services provided by treasurer, clerk, county building maintenance, environmental health, public health, land use planning, building code implementation, emergency management and 911 call services, sheriff’s office, jail operations, county fair, extension and human services all provide the backbone for economic health.
Partnerships the county participate in that support economic health include broadband, middle mile support and support of strong community educational systems, including pre-K through 12th grade and local college systems.
Routt County, through its direct and indirect services, assists in providing a predictable, safe experience for residents and visitors. County provides quality support for year-round operations such as tourism, location-neutral businesses, outdoor recreation, creative industries, mineral extraction and agriculture.
Recently, Routt County became a destination of an increased senior population, which requires new support mechanisms. While tourism continues as a primary economic driver of the local economy, the county and partnering municipalities and its residents must continue to strive toward a balanced economy to lessen the effects of industry-specific downturn.
Doug Monger is the District II representative on the Routt County Board of Commissioners.