Roaring back with a list of goals, Brian Fleer returns to Woodland Park this week as the city’s executive director of economic and downtown development.
Former director of the city’s community and economic affairs from 1992 to 1996, Fleer was instrumental in designing the Woodland Park Master Plan.
While the economy may have cratered since then, Fleer’s 120-day plan begins this week with a focus on Woodland Station. “There will be a coordinated effort, either through design or construction to facilitate new development entities into Woodland Station,” Fleer said. “That is definitely going to be a focal point.”
Fleer, one of 50 applicants for the position, replaces Beth Kosley, who resigned earlier this year due to illness. “I wasn’t looking for a position like this, but the opening was very compelling, because of my history with the town, everybody I knew and everything that was going on,” he said. “I think people felt comfortable with a known commodity coming in the door.”
Fleer views his office as a business assistance center, a one-stop shop for assessment, retention and support for existing businesses. “We’re going to send out a survey to every business in Woodland Park,” he said. “Businesses in the community are investors and need to be treated as investors who can make or break the financial viability of a community. I look at them as stockholders.”
Concerned about the empty storefronts around Woodland Park, Fleer has a game plan intended to halt the number of shuttered doors. “Mom-and-pops often invest everything they have; unfortunately, half of them fail,” he said. “When they make that decision to come in to our office, we need to give them the best information possible about making a final decision, which relates to market.”
In a harsh time for the economy, Fleer acknowledges that every business has a cash-flow. “One of the things I’d like to explore is a loan program from $2,500 to $10,000 that doesn’t have all these restraints but maybe four or five basic metrics,” he said. “It’s kind of a revolving loan that is paid back relatively quickly. It may help somebody pay the light bill, get them through the winter months, or upgrade software. There are categories as to how to use this money.”
For the new director, tracking economic development in Woodland Park includes assessing new as well as existing businesses. “We need that line-in the sand assessment, where businesses are at various levels, everywhere from the small mom-and-pop up to the Walmart big-box stores, the national tenants,” he said.
With the periodic assessments, in addition to responses to the survey, Fleer intends to issue a regular state-of-the-economy report that includes updates on the two types of businesses in Woodland Park.
“Base industries, such as Sturman’s, bring outside dollars into the community while the service sector, such as Joanie’s Deli, attracts local dollars,” he said. “We need a balance but my point here is that local businesses can become base industries. This is called a grassroots approach on how to maximize their potential.”
Cut line: Brian Fleer begins work this week as the new executive director for the office of economic and downtown development. Courtesy photo
Brian Fleer, Woodland Park’s new executive director of economic and downtown development, has an eight-point agenda and a list of tasks after each point.
●First 30 days, “Boots on the Ground” survey and document current “Hot Button” issues. “We build the linkages between the city, the county, the chamber of commerce,” Fleer said. “I very much want to have a relationship with the Chamber of Commerce. Communication is probably one of my biggest strengths.”
●Existing business assessment, retention and support
●Land use and infrastructure inventory
●Business and development recruitment
●Employment growth program
●Community education and cultural support
●Create subcommittee-level support to the DDA board and the city’s economic-development effort
●Measureable outcome evaluation.