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Economic development group has new plan to get help from county

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Partnership would identify property that has economic potential

By Ramsey Scott

The Jeffco Economic Development Corp. has received positive feedback on a proposal to partner with the county on an initiative to identify real estate available for economic development.

The EDC is seeking a shared-services agreement to identify those properties and work to turn them into potential sites for business expansion. 

In its proposal to the commissioners, the EDC asked the county to provide an employee to act as an “ombudsman” for planning and zoning departments and developers. That employee would also work with a real-estate advisory group the EDC has formed with the development and banking communities.  

The proposal, which the commissioners seemed open to, would also have the county work with the EDC to establish a database of potential commercial land in Jeffco. 

The database would help the EDC identify property that has economic potential but perhaps doesn’t have the needed zoning, said EDC president Kevin McCasky, a former county commissioner.

“The first phase is to get a complete assessment from top to bottom of all the real estate that’s available that we know of, and go one step further and do a behind-the-scenes analysis of potential job-creating proprieties,” McCasky said. “Then once we get to that stage, we can work to put more of these properties into our marketing tools and have more options and opportunities for businesses that want to come and locate in Jefferson County.”

Yet County Administrator Ralph Schell and the commissioners had concerns. In the proposal, the county employee would act as a liaison between developers and municipal planning and zoning departments. 

Schell said when the proposal was presented Jan. 28 that a single county employee would be unlikely to have all-encompassing knowledge of properties, as implied by the term “ombudsman,” or to be able to serve as a representative for municipalities.

“I think it’s going a little too far in what county employees should be doing,” Schell said. “The cities know a lot more than we do. It’s more appropriate for a city to represent what’s happening in their planning process or their zoning departments.

“I don’t want something where there’s a presumption that it should take three-quarters of an employee, and then instead it takes five employees.”

Fred Baker, who chaired the board of the EDC in 2013, said most of the work would be done by the real-estate advisory committee, and the “ombudsman” would focus on the interactions between developers and municipal planning.

McCasky said the most important element of the proposal would be establishing a database of property to help the EDC market Jeffco as a place to do business. The EDC hoped the database would be ready by June. 

The EDC last year unsuccessfully proposed that a county worker become a shared employee to act as a liaison between private businesses and Jeffco. The employee would have been trained by the EDC and worked at the EDC’s and the county’s offices while receiving full pay and benefits from Jeffco.

The county is funding the EDC at a level of $300,000 this year.

 

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine. 

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