Economic Summit offers information, updates and an opportunity for business leaders to come together
More than 100 business leaders from across northwest Colorado gathered inside the Albright Auditorium on the Steamboat Springs Colorado Mountain College campus and listened as experts fuel a conversation about the economic landscape.
“It was really interesting to hear from the local leaders and the economics professor about the general trends – not only in Routt County, but also in the West Slope and Colorado,” said Chris Mihnovets, co-founder from C4 Crypto Advisers. “It was also great to hear from local agricultural producers and what they see in the economy.
Friday’s session began with coffee and networking at 8 am in the auditorium. Nathan Perry, an associate professor of economics at Colorado Mesa University, spoke, providing insight and numbers explaining what many West Slope business owners have seen in recent years.
He explained how the pandemic and labor shortages have impacted businesses. He also took the time to explain how new issues such as rising gas prices and rising inflation costs could affect tourism-based economies in the future.
The day continued as Jessie Ollier, Founder and CEO of Wellutations, presented a case study on employee retention and Michael Santo, Co-Founder and Partner of Bechtel & Santo, presented an update on what is happening. moves on to the Colorado legislature.
The morning session concluded with a panel discussion on agriculture moderated by Hayden City Manager Mathew Mendisco, which included Colby Townsend, owner of Hayden Fresh Farm; Sydney Ellbogen, owner of Mountain Bluebird Farm; and chef Hannah Hopkins of Besame, Mambo and Yampa Valley Kitchen.
The afternoon session began with Charles Barr, Founder and President of Spring Born, and ended with a presentation by Joelle Martinez, President and CEO of the Latino Leadership Institute, who spoke about diversity, equity and inclusion.
Barr’s experience with Spring Born — a 3.5-acre indoor hydroponic farm in Silt, Garfield County — stood out in the Routt County farming community.
“We’ve all heard the story from farmland that when someone dies, or when there’s a transfer or when someone retires, everything gets split,” Barr said. “Putting the greenhouse on this land and showing that there is a way to grow food and keep farming going, I think, has a lot of benefits for the community, and that’s something that motivates me.
Barr, a San Francisco-based businessman, admits that when he bought the 254-acre plot in October 2019 for $1.5 million he was not a farmer.
“We’ve all read the economics textbooks about how you build something, how you start a new business, how you get things done,” Barr told the Economic Summit audience. “But that said, most new businesses fail.”
Although this may be his first farming venture, Barr came into the business with extensive business experience.
He said there were five things to focus on to make economic growth viable: people, economic conditions, the right resources, motivation and the ability to turn problems into opportunities.
“I was not a farmer. I have no agricultural experience in my past business dealings,” Barr said. “I’m a person who loves building new businesses, loves working with people, loves starting new things, and loves solving problems.”
It is this spirit that inspired him to enter the world of agriculture in hopes of creating a space that emphasizes sustainable practices and advanced technology to bring growing operations all over the world. year in Silt.
Spring Born’s process uses 90% less land, 95% less water than a traditional farm and now offers its products on the Front Range.
Barr recounted how his idea nearly came to an end before it took off, and was told he couldn’t get the necessary permit. However, his drive and the backing of the bank that offered him the loan is what brought Spring Born to Garfield County.
“I wanted better food, healthier food, and I wanted to grow it closer to the people who ate it and at a cheap price,” Barr said. “Originally, I took this idea to another county and tried to get a permit. I did all the design, I did all the permit work, I signed all the contracts, I got all the buildings made, and I lined up all the financing.
But the county he was working with said, “No.”
“You have to approach development as if it is going to be good for the community. If the development isn’t good for the community, it doesn’t make sense to do it,” Barr said. “If you’re just going to develop something for money, you’re going to fail. It has to be about people.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.