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When it comes to nonprofits doing some heavy lifting in Pagosa Country, the list is long.
Delete the familiar organizations that tend to the needs of individuals and specific groups, narrow the list to nonprofits working to affect economic change in the area, then trim it to those that, in one way or another, have been in the news or are in the making, and we find some groups and efforts that could and should make a big difference.
Economic change that portends reasonable, steady growth, takes time. It is not flashy; it does not involve amusement park amenities that serve as resume builders involving taxpayer-supported, privately operated profit centers.
The Community Development Corporation has been in the news and, with serious concerns about funding sources, will continue to be. For the wrong reasons. The non-profit corporation can obtain funding from grants and from investment and, should it work as many similar organizations do, it could jump into real estate redevelopment projects. We wish the CDC success in finding grant money and investment; we wish the organization luck in helping resolve the Pagosa Plaza situation. The town needs this kind of success, and the CDC needs to accomplish something it can tout, other than links to classes and projects Region 9 and Fort Lewis College would offer whether or not a CDC exists. Perhaps a recent change in board membership can turn the CDC in this direction. If it does, the community will benefit greatly.
The Pagosa Arts and Culture Project is another nonprofit worth watching. The organization emphasizes Pagosa Country’s role as a growing creative center. The group is soliciting signups by Pagosa artists and artisans of all types, as well as art businesses of all kinds — to provide evidence that this place has the creative resources to become a major center for the arts in the Southwest, joining Taos, Santa Fe and Sedona. The effort aims at a healthy arts industry, a haven for creative individuals and, eventually, a steady and productive arts tourism trade. The group is seeking grant funding and looks at the many ways, including creation of an arts and entertainment district, to further capitalize on the area’s abundant resources in visual arts, theatre, music and the like.
Lastly, there is a movement getting underway to explore creation of a downtown business district— an effort long overdue, needed to invigorate the downtown economy, and improve the business and aesthetic environment in the area. This, rather than the efforts of town government (which should center on the creation, maintenance and improvement of basic infrastructure), in conjunction with work by groups like the CDC and PACP, could be the spark that lights an economic fire downtown.
The obstacles in the downtown area are many — not the least of which is finding a way to remove a school facility that restricts the kind of business that can operate within a prescribed radius of the buildings.
The aesthetic improvement a district could provoke, coupled with a “branding” process to draw new businesses and individuals to the district, joined by private sector projects (to renovate buildings, to develop properties on Hot Springs Boulevard), enhanced by the completion of long-overdue infrastructure projects by the town, would be a huge step in the right direction.
A steering committee, including business owners and members of the general public, the CDC and the Chamber meets tonight. We wish them success. The sooner a downtown business district is formed, the closer we will be to stable, long-term economic health.