If you’re like me, you think our mountain community is an amazing place to work, live and play. But, I’m worried. You should be, too. The problem is that we’re not building for a future that embraces startup businesses in our mountain communities.
It’s easy to get lazy, kick back, relax and lose your hustle when times are good. I’m concerned when I hear people say, “We don’t need more economic development.” Or, “We don’t need more jobs.” Or, “We have too much growth.”
True, we might not need more growth during the December holidays or spring break or around the 4th of July. Our ski slopes, our trails and our towns are being loved to the max during the peak times.
But, we DO need higher paying jobs, we DO need to diversify our economy, and we DO need to attract and retain smart, problem-solvers who care about this community and want to continue making our home an amazing place.
So, yes – we DO have a need for economic development. And, yes, we DO have a need for more innovation and invention right here in the mountains. We have an opportunity to build a brighter future that WE design and plan.
Our community should be the hub for innovation, tech and creativity in the Rocky Mountains. But we’re missing the opportunity. We’re too complacent. And focusing in the wrong direction. We’re trying to fix the symptoms like workforce housing instead of solving the root cause of the housing shortage by creating a higher living wage and a stronger, more diversified economic base.
We already have one of the highest educated communities in Colorado. You guys are smart, really smart. But, you’re underemployed. Many of you are working two or three jobs just to pay your (ever-increasing) rent or mortgage.
What if we created higher paying jobs that weren’t wholly reliant upon tourism? The per capita income in Summit County is $33,052, and only slightly higher at $37,014 in Eagle County (per the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments). We have an opportunity to double or triple that.
Let’s help locals start their own businesses. Let’s create new educational opportunities and non-traditional learning programs for in-demand jobs like data science, programming and coding and project management. Let’s help locals find location-neutral jobs and build startup companies right here. Let’s focus on creating jobs and opportunities for locals to make $80,000 a year or more, a lot more.
We can do it. We can support our motivated, smart, ambitious innovators. We can build and grow our startup community and create our own hub of innovation right here in the high country.
So, what’s needed? According to Brad Feld, a part-time Summit County resident and full-time startup guru, venture capitalist and author of the book, Startup Communities, there are four elements to building a startup community … and yes, I think we have them all:
We have the foundational elements but we cannot succeed without a committed focus on broadband, protection for a strong patent system and increased support from our educational partners, towns, county and community.
We’re on the right track. We have brilliant and motivated innovators, startup founders and entrepreneurs in our community – people like Fin, Nick, Westy, Shawna. These are the pioneers and the risk-takers who are leading the way. We need your help. This is a call to all of the entrepreneurs and innovators in our community to come together. This is a call to our elected officials and Summit County community to support this movement.
We hosted an event a few weeks ago at ELEVATE Frisco on National Inventors’ Day to say thanks to these leaders and innovators in our community and to get working on economic development, patent issues, broadband and collaborations. If you want to start building this future together, join us. Let’s make our community an even more amazing place to live, work and play.