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PEP Annual Meeting Notes County Economic Growth

 

The Prowers Economic Prosperity Board of Directors conducted their annual meeting on Tuesday, February 6th, at the Lamar Community Building. PEP President Rick Robbins and Executive Director Eric Depperschmidt capped the accomplishments of the revised economic development organization for 2017.

Eric Depperschmidt, PEP Executive Director

Last year, the PCDI organization had been given new guidance by an economic focus group PUMA, Progressive Urban Management Associates. The board membership was transformed into a ‘buy-in’ group, comprised of businessmen, business owners and representatives from the county’s municipal groups.  The search for an executive director who had proven experience in the field and was familiar with rural life was narrowed to Eric Depperschmidt who signed on in March to head what is now called PEP.

Rick Robbins, PEP President

Rick Robbins, PEP President, spoke about the past year, saying, “There is momentum underway in Lamar,” relating to some of the economic gains that have been made. He added that one of the key strengths of the organization is its ability to now make it easier to do business in Lamar.  Robbins said in the past, a person with a business idea had to make numerous contacts in order to advance their plan.  PEP has redefined its structure so the steps a person needed to start a business has been foreseen so basically only one contact person is needed through the PEP organization.  He added that the idea of an interrelated benefit is being accepted, “If a new business aids Lamar it can also help Holly and if a new business venture opens in Holly, there is an opportunity for it to benefit the Wiley Community.”  He invited Prowers County residents to join in the discussions and become contributing members of the roundtable meetings, noting that it’s better to be, “a part of the solution” than an anonymous critic of the organization through coffee table talk or social media sites.

Depperschmidt’s annual review included such areas as the development of Business Roundtable Discussion groups that have planned quarterly meetings in 2018 for areas such as housing, agriculture, travel, tourism and finance. Some past developments included CDL training at LCC for local businesses that are in need of certified drivers, the 2017 Housing Assessment for the county, the Rural Jump Start Program and the Certified Small Business Community with LCC which holds weekly meetings with interested business owners.  “PEP offered assistance to several new and existing businesses this past year including Five Arrows Farmer’s Market, the Willow Creek Pharmacy, a business niche was filled with the opening of Home Town Sporting Goods on Main Street and Gateway Safety Products started their road flare business with five employees and I believe their now up to 12 workers,” he remarked.

Depperschmidt said he’s currently working with eight active prospects in manufacturing, agriculture retail and healthcare, “And after a recent meeting I had, we might push that up to 12 business ventures.” He noted that in the past year Prowers County Sales Tax Collections went up by 3.21% and Lodging Tax Collections increased by 1.73%.  A PEP business survey of 100 respondents indicated that 27% plan to expand the first half of 2018 and 36% plan to expand at some point in the year.

Jay Brooke

Jay Brooke, former Executive Director of High Plains Community Health Center and current board member of Sage Brush Meadows, described the efforts to establish a new nursing home for the community. “We’re going to build a $22M, 60,000 square foot nursing home,” he stated, adding that Frontier Bank has donated 10 acres of land north of the Spreading Antlers Golf Course on Highway 287.  The non-profit group has been developing a nursing home concept for several years that will employ as many as 70 persons to care for the elderly and disabled in the region.

PEP treasurer, Lawrence Brase recapped the financial report for 2017 and listed the 2018 budget for ratification by board members. He said the operating income for the year will be $128,000 based on $53,000 from community contributors and $75,000 was comprised of $50,000 from Prowers County and $25,000 from the City of Lamar which had doubled its contribution over the past year.  Lamar Community College is donating office space for the organization, estimated at $6,000.

Regarding how the new prospects decided on Prowers County, Depperschmidt said several of them were from OEDIT, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. “Some were local, but there are outside interests that have been noticing our outreach programs and are sharing information.  We can’t handle an Amazon coming to the county, however if Denver is chosen, there will be businesses that push out or may want to move out.  We’re here and we can welcome them in.  The local interest in the poultry project developed because we found out they weren’t happy with the community they were looking at and we called them and said we’d love to have their interest.”

Robbins noted that some prospects were surprised to find the county is not that far from the Front Range. “It takes about three hours to drive to Denver and there are times that it takes almost that long to drive across Denver,” he said.  Some of our contacts are surprised by that. “We have to quit talking about how far away we are and how long it takes to get here.  We have to let people know that we aren’t that far away at all.”

PEP is currently located in the administration section of the Bowman Building at Lamar Community College in Room 106 and the phone number is unchanged at 336-2384.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: AgricultureCity of GranadaCity of HollyCity of LamarCity of WileyCollegeConsumer IssuesCountyEconomyEventsFeaturedHot TopicsHousingTourismTransportationUtilities

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