Panel stresses jobs, economic development

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Panelists with different areas of expertise discussed the efforts being made on the state, county and city level to help with economic development during the March Lakewood legislators town hall.

District 18 Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, Vice President of the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation Michelle Claymore and Lakewood Deputy City Manager Nanette Neelan were on hand to talk about ways that their respective areas differ.

“We need to keep people employed, while working to attract employees to our state,” Heath said.

While the sequester has created a big unknown for the economy, it’s important that Colorado does what it needs to do better its economy, he said.

“It all starts with education — you can’t talk about economic development without talking about education,” Heath said. “As a state we’re next to last in funding for K through 12 education, and I feel we can do better by our kids.”

Heath said research from the state’s colleges has developed many new ideas that could help grow the economy, and focus on enterprise zones — which provide tax incentives to encourage businesses to locate and expand is designated to economically distressed areas of the state.

Claymore said that Jefferson County has had the same mission for 50 years — the creation and retention of jobs.

“Issues like business attraction, public policy and fostering small businesses are key for us,” she said. “We want to make sure that Jefferson County is the most attractive place for businesses to invest.”

Claymore added that currently there are about 100,000 more people who need jobs than there are jobs available, but the county is working to change that by finding an infrastructure that will help entrepreneurs and improve work force development.

Neelan said Lakewood is tapping into the opportunities provided by partnerships with Red Rocks Community College and Colorado Christian University, and is using the flexability provided by the new zoning update to streamline the process of businesses moving to the city.

“We’re looking at very diverse economy here — with the Federal Center, the school district and primary businesses,” she said. “Eighty-seven percent of the city’s businesses have fewer than 20 employees, so the city is very friendly to small businesses.”

She also spoke about the opportunities that St. Anthony and the W Rail Line will continue to bring to Lakewood.

For Lakewood Mayor Bob Murphy, the city’s economic development is tied to the way it is approached.

“When we talk about economic development here, we take a very holistic approach,” he said. “We’re offering the quality of life we provide here.”

The entire meeting can be streamed at www.jbgtv.com.

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