Area receives tech help grant to assist financial restoration | Information

The Roaring Fork Valley region was one of 16 areas of the state to receive a tech assistance grant meant to aid rural communities in driving economic relief, recovery, diversification and long-term resilience.

The Department of Local Affairs and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade announced on June 10 that the 16 regions were named participants in the Colorado Rural Resiliency and Recovery Roadmaps program, which is funded by a $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

“This is something we started the pandemic with, right?” Aspen City Manager Sara Ott said at a City Council meeting on Tuesday. “We knew it was going to take a regional effort to come out of this better, and I’m pretty excited that we’re headed down this route.”

Each region is represented by a number of local institutions — for example, organizations participating in the Roaring Fork regional team include Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties; the cities of Aspen and Glenwood Springs; the towns of Snowmass Village, Basalt and Carbondale; the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments; the chambers of commerce in Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs; and other entities.

The Roaring Fork region has already begun discussions about how to better serve its communities, Ott said.

“From the city of Aspen to Parachute, we have been working cooperatively through our jurisdictions and nonprofit partners to work on a regional strategy to address common issues,” she said. “This is technical, so it’s more facilitation work, about identifying those common areas, rather than the work of actually implementing any change. This is a huge first step, I think, in a regional discussion.”

The Roadmaps Program is a collaborative effort between DOLA, OEDIT and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, according to a news release from DOLA. The program is broken down into three stages: curriculum to connect the regional team and assess the current situation of the communities; roadmap planning and strategizing; and implementation matchmaking. It is expected to create more than 100 jobs and up to $50 million in private investments.

“We are excited to have the 16 regional teams identified and begin working with them,” Katharina Papenbrock, deputy director of rural opportunity at the state economic development department, said in the press release.

“The economic impact of COVID-19 was especially felt in Colorado’s rural communities, where it exacerbated existing challenges for key industries, businesses and the local workforce. This grant allows us to match our rural communities with the right resources and programs within OEDIT and our partners so that they can advance and realize their short- and long-term economic resiliency strategies,” she added.

Other regional teams that received grants include the towns of Center, Clear Creek County, the Costilla County Economic Development Council, Eagle County, the city of Fruita, Gunnison County, the town of Limon, Morgan County, Montezuma, the Region 10 League for Economic Assistance and Planning, South Central Council of Governments, Southeast Council of Governments, Summit Prosperity Initiative, the city of Steamboat Springs and Upstate Colorado.

The Roadmaps Program participants and grant recipients were announced shortly before Gov. Jared Polis signed the Expand Broadband Service bill into law, a similar effort to provide technical assistance to rural communities. As previously reported, Polis visited Basalt for the bill signing on June 27, saying that in order for Colorado to be connected, we need to be connected.

“Today, we’re investing $5 million in American Rescue Act money … to help make broadband access more affordable for more families,” he said.

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