As Delta County and municipalities are drafting budgets for 2017, Delta County Economic Development is urging all its public partners to increase their investment in economic development efforts.
"If you think there is a need to improve the private sector economy, you need to step up now," Tom Huerkamp told Delta council members last week. "I don't think we've ever had the opportunity that's in front of us ... we've got a lot of people working and pulling for us to make things happen."
Huerkamp, DCED board vice president, and Trish Thibodo, executive director, urged Delta City Council to make the most of that momentum by increasing the city's 2017 investment from $25,000 to $35,000.
Never before have state and federal entities such as the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade or the U.S. Economic Development Administration shown such a keen interest in Delta County, the DCED representatives say.
"We're building a lot of momentum," Huerkamp said, "and the more we can build that momentum, the more we can support the projects we have going."
For a number of years, the City of Delta has made a direct contribution to DCED of $25,000 annually. Another $25,000 has been set aside for specific job creation projects and is released only upon request by DCED and approval by city council.
In addition to increasing public investments, DCED has launched a campaign to bring on more private investments from individuals and business owners. But at $500 and up, it takes a lot of individual investors to match the municipalities' contributions, Thibido pointed out.
She said DCED is currently working with 19 businesses interested in either expanding or moving to Delta County. DCED's mission to strengthen and diversify the economy puts the nonprofit organization squarely in the path of county and regional initiatives including broadband implementation, a countywide business branding campaign, Space to Create and the Soil Health Conference. DCED has just two paid staff members and a board of directors actively involved in advocacy and networking.
DCED operates on a lean budget that includes investments of $53,000 from the public sector and $37,000 from the private sector.
Huerkamp pointed out that the public sector is by far the largest employer in the county. He estimates that the school district, hospital, Delta County, City of Delta and other governmental entities account for about 70 percent of the total employment in Delta County.
"If you hope to increase revenue, to increase property value, to increase sales tax ... there's no other way without massive input from the public sector at this point," Huerkamp said.
Councilmember Gerald Roberts requested a detailed accounting of DCED's revenues and expenses, saying he wants assurance that the City of Delta is not DCED's major funding source.
"Hopefully you're seeing the benefit of the work we do in partnership with the city on many projects," Thibido said.
A collaborative effort between the Delta County Sheriff's Office and municipal law enforcement agencies throughout Delta County has resulted in a proposal for a 1 percent sales tax increase to fund public safety. A PowerPoint presentation titled "Back the Badge" is starting to make the rounds at city/town council meetings, service club luncheons and other events.