On October 18, the City Council of our great city of Cañon City unanimously passed a resolution supporting Ballot Actions 6A and 6B to fund and create a community recreation and water center that would be operated by the Cañon City Area Recreation and Park District.
I have been involved in the recreation center initiative from the start, so of course I want 6A and 6B to succeed. As the city’s director of economic development, however, what I say in public is often seen as speaking on behalf of the city and the city council. That’s not necessarily the case, so I’ve been careful to make my stance on the recreation center public. Now that the council has spoken, I’d like to share more about how a recreation center can help our community and why I worked to create it.
There is a much larger picture of the need for this facility, and more importantly, the community services it can enable, than most of what has been discussed in the community. A Recreation Center is essential to the continued growth of our community – attracting new, quality employees to the area, allowing employees to live and work in the community with expected amenities, and expanding our non-income tax base. fixed.
Economic development is about enabling, building and strengthening a vibrant and growing economy that meets the daily and future (growth) needs of our community – housing, food, clothing, furniture, health care, car care, health care, family and social services. , leisure, arts, restaurants and entertainment, transportation, public infrastructure, etc.
We do this by developing strategies to strengthen and expand the things we already do well as a community and attract new local and external businesses, services, jobs and investment to fill the gaps left by what we need. We are looking for pieces of the economic puzzle that will allow our community to grow as needed to support itself and its infrastructure. Foreign investment and growth are essential. Similar to a family that relies on a regular and growing income to sustain itself and ensure the best quality of life and future (income from employment or from clients and customers outside the family), communities also have need regular income and outside investment. to be self-sufficient and to continue to increase financial and economic stability and opportunities for growth.
But to attract outside investment to our community, we need to show that we are also investing in our community. Below, I highlight a few ways that an investment in a recreation center can help our community.
Critical positions are not filled
We need to be able to attract people to our community to fill critical positions, such as teachers, doctors, nurses, counsellors, police officers and firefighters, to name a few. One of the main reasons the recreation center initiative started in the first place was that the school system and the health care community regularly lost good qualified candidates for their positions. Why? The nominees refer to a lack of amenities in our community, including child and youth care services and activities for their families in our community. One of the most requested amenities was a recreation center.
Over the years, the employment problem has only gotten worse as labor shortages abound in many organizations today. Leisure centers offer a unique investment in that they are inherently community-oriented and can offer facilities and partnerships to provide much-needed services to current and future families, young people, the elderly and people with disabilities. special needs… not for profit.
Stagnant population – Broadening the tax base
In addition to filling key positions, we also need to attract people to our community to broaden our tax base. Our population growth has stagnated in recent years, with the fastest growing age group being seniors on fixed incomes. Unfortunately, younger age groups who have higher earning potential, discretionary income and are more likely to spend their money tend to leave the area. If we cannot grow the younger, income-producing age groups with the fixed-income population, too great a financial burden is placed on the most fixed-income people in the community. Fixed income does not have the opportunity for growth like employment or business income.
Over time, the tax revenue needed to maintain and replace streets, sidewalks, etc., gradually decreases to the point that voters are being asked for more tax increases to fund projects that should be affordable. with steady economic growth. This is exactly how the city’s 2A streets project was funded. Yes, the recreation center requires another property tax increase. I prefer not to see that.
But a recreation center is one of those long-term investments that allows our community to compete with others, is sought after by people interested in coming to our community, and shows an investment in families and their needed services, which which makes it much more likely that we can attract people here to increase our tax base.
Too many people commute too far to work
You may have heard me talk about the need to increase primary jobs or recruit diverse primary industries into our community. Core jobs are positions with companies that “produce” their products or services in our community or region and sell them outside of our community or region. This creates an influx of outside money into our economy which enriches our community as a whole. Primary industries also tend to offer a greater variety of stable positions that cater to several different skill levels and interests, and these are generally higher paying positions.
The challenge we have now is that too many people in our community are finding the best paying positions outside of our community. Two studies over the past three years show that 57% and 59%, respectively, of people living in Fremont County work outside the county, with most positions located in Colorado Springs and Pueblo. With daily commutes of up to two hours or more, there’s little time left for them to enjoy our downtown core or shop at our local businesses. In fact, it’s much easier and much more likely for employees leaving the community to buy where they work or online.
This phenomenon causes what is called retail leakage – money leaving our community and benefiting others. With the challenges faced by small businesses in our community, it would be an economic boon if we could create more well-paying primary jobs here and keep more of our purchases local. Here we have the quality of life and work-life balance that many desire; unfortunately, we are short of jobs.
The process of attracting the primary industries that provide these jobs is unfortunately a process of elimination for the communities that are not qualified. Companies exploring new locations often work with consultants to limit their site options to only qualified communities. These consultants called Site Selectors are experts at identifying what is wrong with a community with the goal of weeding it out of discord. They see recreation centers as a vital and in many cases mandatory part of a community to attract industry.
When companies invest in a new location, they want a reliable, active and community-involved workforce whose individual and family needs are met. Therefore, a community with a recreation center will far outweigh those without, as recreation centers show that a community has invested in the needs of a potential workforce.
Of course, a recreation center will not solve all our problems. If that were the case, my position wouldn’t be necessary.
But in the world of community and economic development, when the local economy does not meet all the needs of the community, investments must be made to help boost the marketability of our community; help organizations attract qualified employees; facilitating a tax system that is better able to meet the ongoing needs of our community without asking for more; and stimulate our local economy by creating stable, well-paying jobs in our community rather than outside.
It is now!
Rick Harrmann is the Cañon City Economic Development Manager for the Town of Cañon City.