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New direction for Community Development Corp.

After taking the helm as the Pagosa Spring’s Community Development Corporation’s executive director, Rich Lindblad addressed the board at a recent meeting that indicated the organization may be shifting its focus in the upcoming months.

The Sept. 12 meeting was the first in which Lindblad sat in as executive director, and he used his new position to articulate the need for the organization’s focus.

An article in the July 21 edition of The SUN questioned if the Pagosa Springs CDC had been functioning as Community Development Corporations are normally defined or if the organization had merely continued in its function as it had under the auspices of the Archuleta Economic Development Association (AEDA) — an organization that had been disbanded in early 2010 in order to form the CDC.

The July 21 article spelled out various differences between Community Development Corporations and Economic Development Associations, beginning with important tax-status distinctions and continuing with differences in what those entities can or cannot do towards addressing community and economic development issues existing with the residents they serve.

According to the July 21 article, the CDC had done little over the previous 18 months that would indicate “community development” by failing to address numerous issues (i.e. lack of available or work force childcare or housing, not leveraging the lease or purchase of commercial properties for new business development, not pursuing tax credits or grants for business development, etc.) that usually define the goals of a community development corporation. The article went on to say that, given the lack of accomplishment during that time frame, the CDC had done little to distinguish itself from the defunct AEDA.

Following the appointment of Parelli Natural Horsemanship president Mark Weiler to the CDC board (a seat vacated by previous CDC president Mike Alley) and hearing a report on progress towards relocating CDC offices to the Pagosa Country Center (the report suggested a move could be made as early as tomorrow), Lindblad addressed the board with 10 items in his executive director’s report that suggested the CDC would make an attempt to function more in the way similar to that defined in the July 21 article.

“Life has been coming at me from every direction, as you can imagine,” Lindblad said regarding his first few weeks serving as executive director.

Lindblad then attempted to answer the question, “What is a CDC?”

“It must improve the quality of life of the people it serves,” Lindblad said, adding, “It should function like a private developer except that, instead of being governed by profits, they (CDCs) are governed by the community.”

Lindblad added, “A CDC must make residents believe that they have an investment in the community.”

Alternate board member Marion Francis responded to Linblad’s suggestion, saying, “I think that’s perfect except for one word — ‘can.’ I think we shouldn’t define ourselves in a way that sets up unrealistic or unattainable expectations.”

After conceding that his definition should take on more of the timbre of possibility rather than mandate, Lindblad brought up several items that he felt would push the CDC more towards community development.

Following a suggestion that government grant money could be available to the area’s unemployed who desire to pursue green energy businesses, Lindblad said that affordable and available daycare could be expanded in the area by encouraging residents to create daycare businesses small enough to skirt some state regulations specific to larger daycare centers.

Lindblad said he would be taking his idea to the Archuleta County Education Center to see if the center could help provide training to get prospective new daycare providers through the state licensing process.

Lindblad added that he had been assured by Town Planner James Dickhoff that, “No residences in town are prevented from providing daycare.”

In his report, Lindblad also stated (among other things) that the position of a community grant writer would be eliminated in favor of a pay-as-you-go subcontracted position. The previous grant writer position had been designated as an employee of the CDC with an annual salary funded with a four-way split between the town, county, Town Tourism Committee and the CDC.

However, Lindblad stated that he was putting together funding letters of requests to the town and county for next year’s CDC budget.

County Commissioner Clifford Lucero expressed that he was uncertain the BoCC would have the wherewithal to continue funding the CDC at the level it had this past year (the county and town contributed $50,000 each to fund the CDC).

“In all honesty,” Lucero told Lindblad, “fifty-thousand dollars will be a reach ... we are struggling at the county this year with budgets.”

Admitting that the CDC might have to look at a more modest funding request for the next year, Lindblad announced that a new business (and potential CDC funder) would be relocating to Archuleta County.

Lindblad said that Orion Air would be opening its doors at Stevens Field airport Oct. 15. A logistical designer for international flight operations, Orion Air would employ 10-15 people for its management crew but would also potentially provide around 10 jobs for local residents.

Orion Air provides international flight plans for corporate and private jets.

Lindblad added that the company might also eventually relocate several jets at Stevens Field.

Prior to adjourning the meeting, Weiler briefly described a proposal for building a multiuse indoor riding arena on a 95-acre parcel located along U.S. 84, purchased by the county at the end of 2010.

According to Weiler, the arena would be capable of seating 1,000 -2,000 spectators and would be used by Parelli when other events were not scheduled to use the facility. Weiler also said that the project would be funded through private financing.

“We need access to a year-round, all-weather facility,” Weiler said regarding his company’s desire to see the project move forward.

Although a multiuse riding arena could be as much as one to two years down the road, what will be more interesting in the near future is to see if Lindblad’s vision for the CDC takes hold — and if the CDC board will approve of that direction.

jim@pagosasun.com

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