PEP Board Learns About Planned Lamar-Based Youth Entrepreneurship Fair



The approaching November 7th E-Fair was one of two topics presented to board members of Prowers Economic Prosperity during their monthly meeting, held in the Holly Senior Center, Tuesday, September 4th.  The other presentation described the potential financial impact for state and local highway improvements should Proposition 110 pass in the November General Election.

John Wittler, Regional Coordinator for Ogallala Commons and Julie Worley, representing the Youth Entrepreneurship Fair, described how the fair, now two years old, offers La Junta students in middle and high schools, an opportunity to present and be judged on their plans to develop a business. “Those that pass an overall inspection and interview are invited to present again in a friendly, ‘Shark Tank’ environment.  In the past two years over $6,000 cash prizes has been awarded to the winning projects,” Wittler explained.  He and Worley said 80 youth have participated in La Junta and this year, a similar E-Fair will be held at the Lamar Community Building on November 7th.

Worley added that of the 61 projects showcased so far, there are 15 business ideas that have been developed and are operational, although some, such as a lawn-mowing business, are seasonal. The older classes are directed to present a more detailed and locally oriented business model while the middle schoolers have more freedom with their ideas. Last year, two students from the Rocky Ford area, presented PEP board members with their plans for on-site farm equipment repairs.  The majority of the plans are focused on local business applications.

Proposition 110 was explained to the board members by Landon Gates, representing Let’s Go Colorado, as a state sales tax increase of 0.62% which would benefit CDOT’s road improvement projects. “The percentage amounts to sixty-two cents for every $100 spent,” he said, explaining that CDOT doesn’t have sufficient funding to go beyond the $1.5B they spend on road maintenance each year.  “That also means there’s a $1B shortfall against a $9B list of 107 priority projects for improved and new roads in the state if it passes.”  Funding, he said, would give CDOT 45% of the annual revenue with cities and counties receiving 20% for their own projects and 15% would be applied to Multi-Modal options.  “The first year of revenue would be around $767M and the tax would sunset after 20 years and another initiative would need to be passed to extend it,” he told board members.  Gates said it’s very difficult to generate a dedicated revenue source from the general assembly from year to year.

He said the $767M could be leveraged to generate $6B in bonding authority to be used for CDOT’s road repair projects. He explained that local governments can apply their share of funding as needed, from repaving and repair projects to matching funds for state projects.  This would include the long discussed Lamar Reliever Route and improvements to Highway 50, but would not impact the Main Street project currently underway.  He said the split between cities and counties would be based on lane miles and vehicle registrations which would help aid rural areas.  Current tax exempt purchases would not be altered by the proposition’s passing in November.  Gates added that revenue is declining, based on the current $0.22 per gallon gas tax, showing little revenue increase since it was passed in 1991.  “We’re gaining in land miles that need to be repaired, coupled with a 164% population gain.  We’re also adjusting for improved mileage efficiency in engines, the introduction of electric cars and more bicyclists are adding to a downturn in dollars at the pump.”

He offered potential revenues for Holly which received $32,000 for Highway Users Tax Funds in 2017 and explained that an additional $38,000 could be realized if the proposition passed. By the same token, Prowers County, which received $2M in 2017 would see an additional $1.5M per year, amounting to $44M over the 20 year life of the tax.  Commissioner Ron Cook asked for details on the guarantee that funding would be forthcoming for state counties.  Gates said while the entire list of communities would not fit on the ballot, his group plans to have them available in the election Blue Book.  The board members deferred on a vote for a letter of support for Proposition 110 until more discussion had developed and they will address the issue during their October 2nd meeting.

As the board meeting was hosted in Holly for the third quarter, PEP Executive Director, Eric Depperschmidt, stressed Holly economic developments during this monthly presentation. He noted that some limited construction work is underway at the Holly Dairy Farm, “But we’re still away from any actual ground-breaking at this time,” he explained.  He said one food processing prospect is looking for a suitable site for their venture and another manufacturing oriented business is researching building construction costs.

Discussion focused lightly on an idea to address limited housing in the area by constructing a dozen homes in Prowers County, based on available funding. Two houses would be built in Wiley, Holly and Granada with six built in Lamar, although that is only a developing idea from the PEP housing roundtable meetings held at SECED offices in Lamar.  The meeting closed with the introduction of Jackie Crabtree, the new Holly School District Superintendent to the gathering.  Jacob Holdren presented an overview of his second annual car show and concert in Holly, set for September 29th.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: AgricultureCity of GranadaCity of HollyCity of LamarCity of WileyConsumer IssuesCountyEconomyElectionsEmploymentEntertainmentFeaturedTourismTransportation


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