IGNACIO When it comes to creating good-paying tech jobs, La Plata County is sending a mixed message, a panel of area technology consultants and executives say.
One local technology marketing representative likened the situation to Halloween costume shopping.
Were still trying to figure out what costume to wear, said Walker Thompson, sales and marketing manager for WhenToManage, a restaurant software company.
Thompson and several others, including Kelly Hebbard, with FastTrack Communications; Mark Fei, software developer; and John Skowlund, an information-technology consultant, offered insight about the regional information technology industry during the fifth annual Economic Summit hosted by the La Plata Economic Development Alliance.
Thompson said the area is moving both forward and backward in its pitch for tech jobs.
Fort Lewis College recently announced it will eliminate the computer science major program. It will make prospective companies and entrepreneurs question whether the area could provide a good labor force for their tech endeavors, Thompson said.
And places the community envisions technology companies might locate lack access to the areas best infrastructure.
For instance, FastTracks offices in Bodo Industrial Park are not directly connected to the companys own fiber-optic infrastructure. (Hebbard said places such as Bodo Park cannot have aerial utilities, and underground infrastructure is cost-prohibitive unless done during a propertys initial construction.
Adding insult to injury, Durango City Manager Ron LeBlanc was recently quoted in a story about the citys budget discussing what the city would do if Mercury Payment Systems, one of the citys large employers, headquartered elsewhere.
Thats a red flag, people, Thompson said, There should be no contingency.
Meanwhile, local businesses and economic-development professionals are hard at work growing the technology industry here. And some high-tech assets already exist here.
Dozens of technology professionals and consultants, including Skowlund, operate lucrative home offices here. Many others are tech-qualified orphans in their careers after following a spouses job to the area and arriving to find no work, he said.
Technology infrastructure companies like FastTrack are loading up on bandwidth and expanding trunk lines into major metropolitan areas such as Denver and Albuquerque to ensure they can meet the growing business and consumer demands as they arise, Hebbard said.
And a local technology club for business professionals and for those who work in the technology field has formed and is growing, Fei said. The group already has more than 40 members and is expected to soon grow to 150 members, panel members said.
Those physical and intellectual resources could be tapped, the panel said. With a cohesive community effort, a formalized tech-company incubator and enough collaboration, La Plata County could turn its mixed message to the tech world into a sales pitch. There is potential for the area to be competitive in recruiting technology entrepreneurs and companies, they said.
Thats where the jobs are going, Thompson said.