Regional economic strategy targets housing and infrastructure goals – The Durango Herald
The report also discusses the use of natural land to support the economy.
The Sixth Edition of the Southwest Colorado Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy identified La Plata County stakeholder priorities for the county’s economic development.
Highlights include the provision of affordable and accessible housing, the fight against homelessness, the need to improve regional infrastructure and the use of the county’s natural lands as key economic drivers.
The report is developed by Southwest Colorado Region 9 Development District through local engagement with economic development groups, government entities, nonprofits, educational institutions, homeowners business and the general public.
The county’s economic priorities are determined in part from Community Development Action Plans, which are economic projects approved by La Plata County Commissioners.
Projects listed in community development action plans and the broader economic strategy are advantageous to receive funding because they show verified community support. This year, the Commissioners approved 63 CDAP projects, several of which contribute to meeting the priorities listed in the report.
To view all projects, visit www.region9edd.org/comprehensive-economic-development-strategy.
Affordable housing and the fight against homelessness
La Plata County, and in particular Durango, are struggling to provide housing for the workforce due to high construction costs and low housing stock, which is in part due to the affluent remote workers who s ‘settling in the region. Across all industries, the average annual wage in La Plata County is $ 47,936, which is just 70% of the estimated living wage of $ 68,120 for a family with two children, according to the report.
The cost of living in Durango prevents many Durango workers from living in the city. In the report, a 2018 study found that around half of Durango’s workers came to the city from another location.
There are several CDAP projects aimed at addressing concerns, such as the revitalization of the Regional Housing Alliance in Durango and the proposed completion by Habitat for Humanity of the Fox Farm Village affordable housing project in Bayfield.
While the provision of affordable housing partially tackles the increase in homelessness, especially in Durango, a high-priority CDAP project seeks to tackle the problem in all directions. The strategy was developed by county officials, law enforcement and nonprofit organizations. The proposed initiative covers improving community coordination, providing a range of housing and shelter needs, ensuring that health services are available and affordable, improving community safety ( especially in relation to drug addiction), providing more work opportunities and creating a sense of community belonging.
To learn more about Durango’s strategy to tackle homelessness, visit www.durangogov.org/DocumentCenter/View/16571/D-LPC-Strategic-Plan-on-Homelessness—Final.
Almost half of CDAP projects involve making infrastructure improvements.
A project proposes the development of infrastructure to support a new economic development zone near the Durango-La Plata County Airport.
A Bayfield initiative aims to make essential investments in the city’s infrastructure, including developing a new branding, renewing streets and sidewalks, increasing tourist amenities, finding a major employer with primary jobs and by recruiting national retail chains in the region.
There are major transit projects in CDAPs including transit service between Durango and Pagosa Springs, Durango and Dove Creek, and from the city limits of Durango to the airport, Hermosa, Durango West, Hesperus and Edgemont.
According to the report, the population of La Plata County is expected to grow at a moderate rate until 2035. Many of the projects listed in the CDAP aim to address the need for infrastructure maintenance as the population increases.
Using natural lands as economic engines
The report states that “the natural resources available make the county an attractive place to live and work and attract outdoor enthusiasts,” and that these resources should be used as economic engines.
A CDAP project seeks to further develop Durango Mesa Park, in order to encourage more public and private leisure activities.
Several initiatives proposed in CDAPs encourage appropriate use and responsible management of natural lands for economic development. A USDA grant has already been awarded to community partners in La Plata County to restore a regional food system that leverages the rural strengths of the county by stimulating economic development, workforce development, stewardship environment and social equity.
While affordable child care has been highlighted as one of La Plata County’s economic priorities, no CDAP project has responded.
“We imagine that (in terms of child care over the next two years) there will not only be funding, but also the ability to address some of the child care shortages that exist in the region. We don’t know exactly what that looks like at the moment, ”said Heather Otter, Economic Development Project Manager for Region 9.
This year’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy recognizes that economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is a top priority in many community discussions. Although the resumption of COVID-19 is not directly discussed in the report, it remains relevant in many economic development initiatives.