DEL NORTE — After just over a year and a half, the Upper Rio Grande Economic Development (URGED) organization met for its annual dinner at the Colorado Grille and Tap House in Del Norte. Clark Anderson, Executive Director of Community Builders, was the keynote speaker.
Anderson works with a team of about nine individuals who specialize in different areas to help bring life to small downtown areas and help with ecological and affordable places to live. Anderson and his team help communities understand what they are lacking, where they need to grow and how to do it in a way that would create places where people want to live.
Anderson opened his presentation by asking the crowd of community leaders what they thought stood out in the San Luis Valley communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am excited to be here with you,” Anderson said. “I am really excited to be here in this moment with you as we are coming out of the pandemic and to understand where we are and where we are going. I think this is a really important time to rethink and also encourage change. What did you learn during the pandemic about your communities?”
The following discussion included thoughts about the resiliency of those who live in the San Luis Valley and the desire to come together to help each other when needed. It was also highlighted that each community has something unique and different to offer newcomers who may choose to live in the Valley and how each community leader could use that as building blocks for future projects.
Anderson spoke about his past completed projects in neighboring towns throughout the state and what they did to create desirable places.
Anderson spoke about the need for affordable housing and how URGED could be the leading effort to see that come to fruition.
Several other efforts have been taking place in the Valley to begin the process of creating more homes for people flocking to the area, including the San Luis Valley Housing Coalition. It recently completed a large-scale housing needs assessment study.
“Let’s face it folks. Places are what bring people in,” Anderson said. “So, we have to first create the place and I think we are in an opportune time to do just that. It is time to invest in the place you live and create a place for people. If you do this, you will win economically.”
URGED Director Marty Asplin opened the dinner meeting.
“We are so happy to see all of you again and so many of you without masks. It is such a pleasure to be able to meet and share a meal once again,” Asplin said.
The first announcement of the night was that Directors Marty and Bonnie Asplin were stepping down from their leadership roles for URGED in the next few months. They started the Upper Rio Grande Economic Development organization after seeing the need for community economic and financial support.
Many communities in the western part of the Valley and the Valley are underserved and often forgotten. The Asplins set out to change that by forming URGED. The group is on sound footing, has direction and financial investors.
For more information on URGED, visit online www.urg-ed.com.