Silverton’s internet, housing, business loans and Superfund planning – Anthony Edwards has had a hand in them all.
Last week,the entrepreneur and San Juan County judge was named the Economic Development Leader of the Year by the Region 9 Economic Development District board of directors.
“He’s really put a lot into Silverton over the years,” Region 9 Economic Development District Executive Director Ed Morlan said.
Region 9 works on economic development across a five-county region in Southwest Colorado.
From Oklahoma, Edwards worked as an economic development coordinator in Silverton from 1990 to 2005, and during that time, he gave out 47 loans, worked to improve internet service and helped bring more affordable housing.
The vision for internet service was partially realized with the completion of a fiber-optic line to Silverton last winter. This month, Forethought.net is signing up residents and businesses for better service.
“Right now, I am pretty ecstatic about what is available,” Edwards said.
After attending law school between 2005 and 2009, he returned to Silverton and started San Juan Law Office. He also helped start Main Street Crowd, an online crowdfunding site.
Since 2012, he has been a Small Business Development Center business consultant, and he meets with people outside of the SBDC to mentor them.
After the Gold King Mine spill, the community asked him to be the official public information officer, and during the days after the spill, he worked with members of the media, including some national and international outlets.
“To describe what transpired, I’m not sure you can really. ... The event was pretty surreal,” he said.
As spokesman, he worked with many reporters who did not understand the issue.
Some asked why Silverton was opposed to clean water, he said.
“It was hard for the community to understand where that was coming from,” he said.
He is part of a planning group working on Superfund issues, and he says the community would like to see more water processed through the EPA’s treatment plant to further improve water quality.
He also continues advocating for better internet, and he would like a fiber-optic line for every home.
Housing is an ongoing need, and he is helping with the Anvil Mountain housing project where 18 to 22 homes could be built.
The increased cost of weekly rentals, the cost of new development and the challenge of building at high altitude make it tough for families and workers to afford to live in Silverton, he said.
While it may not seem to be directly related to economic development, he would like to address funding for emergency services in Silverton and San Juan County.
While 85 percent of the county is federal public lands, the payment in lieu of taxes does not come close to paying for the resources needed for services, especially if it continues to grow in popularity as a tourist destination, he said.