For Delta County Economic Development, 2017 was a busy year and a reason to celebrate at its annual meeting on Thursday, April 12. Board president John Gavan welcomed members and guests, and offered a brief recap of the year.
He also introduced Stacey Voigt, who was hired as executive director in the winter of 2017.
Voigt began her presentation by thanking everyone in the room for the hard work they have been doing to improve the Delta County economy. "You guys have done an amazing amount of work to build the foundation needed for economic development."
Noteworthy are the Delta County School District and its Engage entreprenuerial program, and Delta Montrose Electric Association and its Elevate broadband enterprise.
She also praised the county branding effort and its tag line "Climate to Create, Energy to Grow."
Voigt pointed out DCED helped 20 businesses to relocate or expand in Delta County, including Colorado Stone Quarries and DIP CO. DCED also hosted two big conferences -- the E2 Energy and Technology Conference and the Western Colorado Soil Conference.
Voigt explained that in March the board devoted a day to strategic planning. From that emerged priorities of growing the economy, growing DCED and water conservation. As an organization, they hope to change the culture of Delta County, work on affordable housing, agriculture, grow healthy places, utilize the tech college to support small businesses, entrepreneurs and trade education, and encourage the installation of electric vehicle charging stations.
Vice president Tom Huerkamp talked about water conservation. He explained that the state has roughly 500,000 acre feet of water that is being improperly used, with nearly 300,000 of that in Delta County north of the Gunnison River. Most of the local water rights predate the downstream users, giving Delta County a major resource if it can claim it. He said DCED should start the charge, including politically, to increase storage in Delta County. According to Huerkamp, if all the reservoirs on Grand Mesa were elevated by two feet, there would be space to contain the 300,000 acre feet. "Someone will pay a terrible price for that water in the future ... I think this is a good project for DCED."
When Voigt opened the meeting to questions, she was asked what was meant with changing the culture of Delta County. She explained that during the visioning session, it was noted that there are "some challenges of getting along" between communities. "Each community has its own identity," which is important," said Voigt. "But the county could be working together better
... unity, unity, unity kept coming up."
The election results are in at the local, state and national level, and as expected, Democrats are doing well in state and national races. Colorado has elected Jared Polis as governor; nationally the Republicans appear to retain control of the Senate while Democrats now control the House of Representative.
With a ballot full of local and state measures, voter turnout in Delta County topped 71%, with 15,889 ballots cast. Statewide, voter turnout was just over 52%.
Of the three Delta County residents seeking state offices, Matt Soper won over Thea Chase in State Representative Dist. 54; Mike Mason lost to Julie McCluskie in State Representative Dist. 61; and Olen Lund lost to Kerry Donovan in State Senate Dist. 5.
Locally, in the City of Delta voters rejected a .5% sales tax increase to fund recreation, as well as recreational marijuana sales. The sale of medical marijuana and cultivation/manufacturing facilities was approved by a slim margin. Delta voters also gave the city the green light to move forward with selling or trading the Cottonwood and Riverbend Park, and to sell the old Municipal Light and Power Building.