This week, Durango hosted The Colorado County Treasurers’ Association and the Public Trustee Association of Colorado Fall Seminar.
Our county treasurer, Allison Aichele (pronounced Ike-Lee), spearheaded and provided the lion’s share of the planning for this conference. The conference draws about 100 people to Durango for the week and will bring in revenue of about $250,000 to Durango.
Next year, Cooperative Coffees will be coming to Durango for its annual meeting. The co-op includes 23 roasters who span the continent, from the Yukon to the panhandle of Florida, and are committed to sourcing sustainably grown coffees and partnering closely with the farmers who grow it.
Hosted by Durango resident Glenn Lathrop, an active member of the co-op and owner of Durango’s Desert Sun Coffee, these roasters and their families will meet to discuss their challenges, opportunities and businesses. These business owners and their families will also spend tens of thousands of dollars in our town.
I bring this up because these two business conferences represent the tip of the iceberg of a lucrative business conference market that we in Durango and La Plata County have ignored for decades.
As Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District, mentioned in his column last week, in 1997, BID was formed for the purpose of exploring how to build and operate a conference center facility in downtown Durango. A multi-year study was done in the late ’90s and was updated in 2007. Both showed how a conference center could work in Durango. Despite the stated need, nothing has been built. This multi-million-dollar economic driver for communities has flourished just about everywhere in our state except here in Durango.
Annual festival-type events such as The Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Snowdown, the Bluegrass Meltdown and The Wine Experience draw large out-of-town crowds. They must scramble for facilities and cobble together many small venues to accommodate vendors, performers and attendees. This makes navigation between venues inconvenient, subject to the vagaries of the weather, and at times, confusing for audiences and entertainers alike.
Durango continues to suffer from inadequate meeting and convention facilities, and is foreclosed from tapping the multi-million-dollar group sales and business conference industry. This year, Denver, Grand Junction, Pueblo, Fort Collins, Aurora, Boulder, Greeley and Colorado Springs have built, or have committed to build, additional meeting and conference room space. These communities have figured out how to make this work.
A front page article in the Herald (Oct. 7-8) discussed the anemic sales tax growth in our town and potential solutions to the city’s increasing needs and future budget deficits. Nowhere in the article was the idea mentioned of investing in our community for future growth.
As individuals, we all know that just paying the bills, without savings or investment, is not sufficient planning for later in life.
Municipal governments are no different. If we don’t plan our cities in such a way as to improve our value, or better, to create a return on our investments, then the struggles to pay the bills never end.
The age of collaboration and teamwork has arrived. No matter what kind of business, face-to-face collaboration, training and networking is critical to the success of any endeavor. Cities and towns that have realized this have invested, and are investing, in facilities to meet this growing business and interpersonal need.
The citizens of Durango, its business and community leaders must figure out how to get this done; how to create a revenue stream from “build it and they will come.” It’s not just a good movie line. It really works.
Contact Durango Area Tourism Office Executive Director Frank Lockwood at email@example.com.