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Blueprint supports economic diversity

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Photo by Pat Sunderland During a press conference held in Confluence Park, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne announced the recipients of the first round of the Colorado Blueprint 2.0 initiatives. Delta County was named recipient of three initiatives.

Delta County "really hit it out of the park," Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne said at a press conference in Delta last week. The lieutenant governor and representatives from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) chose Delta to announce recipients of the first round of the Colorado Blueprint 2.0 initiatives. The reason became apparent when Delta County was awarded all three of the initiatives local officials had applied for.

Over the past year, OEDIT hosted 13 strategy sessions throughout the rural regions of Colorado to develop 10 different initiatives for Blueprint 2.0.

Under the leadership of Delta County Economic Development (DCED), Delta County elected to pursue three of the 10 initiatives: Strengthen Local Business Brand, Adaptive Reuse Workshop and Tourism Promotion.

The 49 applicants for the 10 initiatives were narrowed down to those which showed the greatest promise and the greatest community engagement, Lt. Gov. Lynne said.

"Blueprint 2.0 is a great example of how Colorado is going above and beyond existing resources to support the needs of our rural regions," Lt. Gov. Lynne said in a press release following the announcement. "We congratulate today's recipients and look forward to seeing how these regions leverage the new services and resources to help strengthen their economies and communities."

The initiatives do not come with funding, but instead include recognition, technical assistance and services not previously provided by the state. "A lot of it is about the recognition, quite frankly," said Lt. Gov. Lynne.

"For me, the value is bringing in experts to really help us hone in on our issues, accelerate the process and get us to the end point quicker," said Trish Thibido, DCED's executive director.

Thibido said she hopes Delta County will be in a stronger position to seek funding down the road, but for now the value is "strong focus, of bringing us together."

Thibido expanded on each of the three initiatives awarded to Delta County:

Strengthen Local Business Brand. The idea of a unified business brand for the county has been discussed over many years. A countywide collaboration to market, promote and distinguish the county is seen as a necessary step for future economic development.

Adaptive Reuse Workshop. The goal of the Adaptive Reuse Workshop is to explore how to repurpose an old site or building, in this case the Paonia campus of Delta-Montrose Technical College. The initial exploration of reuse indicates that a multi-use facility would allow for the greatest chances for success and benefit to the community. The vision for the facility would be to enhance the strong agricultural history of Delta County and provide new economic activity in food manufacturing and agricultural Innovation and a facility to provide incubation, education and technical training along with culinary arts or other technical training.

Tourism Promotion and Development. Kelli Hepler, Delta County tourism coordinator, explains the vision of the Delta Tourism Cabinet:

"Using the Blueprint 2.0 Team we hope to create a strategic plan that is a countywide program designed to work more closely with each of our six communities. Delta County has been marketed as a region and while each of the six towns do some marketing separately. This is creating a choppy message for the traveler to sort through. We want to create an organized and cohesive promotion plan that sends a more welcoming and unified message out to the traveler."

Anyone interested in getting involved in the tourism marketing and promotion program is encouraged to contact Hepler at 874-9532.

At the press conference, Delta County Commissioner Doug Atchley spoke of the county's rich history of agriculture, mining and tourism. Blueprint 2.0 provides an opportunity to expand on those three economic linchpins, while diversifying the economy. "Yes, coal mining, ag and tourism are great, but they can be expanded, all of them, including coal eventually," Atchley said.

Also attending the press conference were Sen. Kerry Donovan, Rep. Don Coram, the mayors of Ouray and Delta, several members of the Delta City Council and officials from the library district and school board.

"What an incredible community you have here, that's so engaged and turns out to see how we can push things forward," said Fiona Arnold, OEDIT executive director.

After the press conference, state officials enjoyed lunch at Delicious Orchards and toured Ela Family Farms.

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