As the meeting began, suspense hung in the air. Every single chair in the meeting room at the Quality Resort was filled—for the third month in a row. The audience included current and future business owners, representatives from PLPOA and PAWSD, a managing partner for Bartlett and West Engineering who is in the process of relocating here, a County Commissioner, to PSCDC members and interested citizens.
Many were there to see how the drama of the quest for PSCDC funding from Town and County had played out and find out what was next for this organization that is finally beginning to make visible and measurable progress in the six months since it became a true community-led organization.
The PSCDC is finally applying a coherent and pragmatic strategy to economic development. Without a strategy we would continue lurching from one thing to another. Now with an evolving community development strategy we can control what kind of future we, collectively, want for this community, and execute a plan to actually achieve it.
First on the agenda was a presentation by Rich Lindblad, former Executive Director of the PSCDC, of our history and the accomplishments during his tenure. Lindblad began by thanking the current Board, saying “this has been one of the best Boards I’ve ever worked with and I want to tell you how much I appreciate all your efforts, time and all of your energy in moving this community forward.”
Then Lindblad publicly thanked Mark Weiler for not only contributing on the Board but for the $20,000 he contributed in early 2012 and for funding the Positive on Pagosa radio show for an entire year. Thad McKain was the radio host and did an absolutely incredible job. Lindblad also thanked Ken Vickerstaff “who has been a saint to the community and to this team…Ken worked tirelessly to acquire the old downtown City Market complex on behalf of this organization. He’s made at least four trips to Cincinnati on his own nickel, has been working countless hours with executives from Kroger and City Market to acquire that facility on behalf of the PSCDC…thank you for caring so much about this community"!
Lindblad recounted his history with the PSCDC. When he was offered the job, we were in the midst of a multi-year recession. The PSCDC had previously hired Executive Director Steve Vassallo from Mississippi, who lasted only 6 months, made a series of missteps and was finally dismissed. You can read more about that debacle by by clicking this LINK.
Lindblad recounted how the Board meetings prior to his time turned were “brawl sessions.” Members of the public would attend just to see the drama.
Lindblad then described his primary challenge when he first started: our county’s economic situation. Archuleta County has one of the highest “not employed” rates in the state at nearly 20%. We have some of the lowest wages in the state. When Lindblad first took the helm, lots of businesses were just barely hanging on. Many relied on credit cards to get them by, with interest rates up to 20%. Archuleta County is an “Enhanced Enterprise Zone” meaning our community is 20% worse off than the national average from a poverty-level perspective. Lindblad recommended to the Board (August 2011), to focus first on the businesses here at home in need of help before really trying to attract new businesses to town.
Lindblad’s second challenge was to change the image and dysfunctionality of the PSCDC.
Thirdly, Lindblad chose to expand the mission of the PSCDC from purely “economic development” to “community development.” ...
Were these goals accomplished?
Read Part Two...