Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Western Colorado counties are an example of regional cooperation for rural development

Experts agree that the three-legged stool for rural economic development is: Build on your best assets; encourage entrepreneurship; and cooperate across political boundaries. The latter is often difficult; it's human nature to look for advantage in relationships, and rural jurisdictions often compete politically and in other ways. When you spend much of Friday night cheering for your team to beat the other county's brains out, it can be harder to cooperate on Monday morning.

There are "darn few successful examples" of regional cooperation, Bill Bishop writes today in the Daily Yonder, but cites an important one: Club 20, a longstanding organization of the 20 Colorado counties on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, founded in 1953 by Preston Walker, who was publisher of The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, the rural region's largest city. Their first success was lobbying jointly in Denver for road money. The group now has 22 counties and the Ute tribe, all with an equal vote. Most work is done in committees on tourism, public lands, energy, education, water and health care. It also holds political forums; photo by Bishop shows Democratic U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar praising the group and urging it to stay bipartisan.

"There have been some ideological dust-ups as the issues have gone beyond roads and water. There are also constant reminders throughout the day that Club 20 has survived by finding issues that cross political boundaries," Bishop writes. "Club 20 has been successful enough that two other groups of counties in Colorado have copied the Western Slope coalition. There is now Action 22, made up of counties in southeast Colorado. And Progressive 15 is a coalition of rural counties in the far northeastern corner of the state." (Read more)

No comments: