Last week I had the opportunity to attend a week-long Basic Economic Development course in Denver.

The week was jam-packed with information from all the aspects of economic development - from “What is Economic Development” to “Sight Selection” to “Building Communities” - and much more. The days were long and, oftentimes, my brain was on overload late into the night.

Coming back this week, I literally felt as if I was hung over from the brain-numbing information download.

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve been able to digest everything enough to really know what was actually obtained. What is exciting, though, is that I was introduced to a number of different concepts that I am hopeful to implement into my practices here at work.

I am going to start including some more direct education about economic development in my future columns. One very apparent fact is that not everyone really truly understands what my position involves, what its purpose is, and how the Bent County Development Foundation can impact the communities it is meant to serve.

There are processes and practices that my career field revolves within that may be mystical to those looking in. Offering transparency and education about these things will only increase the impact that this office and my position will be able to make moving forward.

My first economic development lesson for you: Networking and Teamwork.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with a number of community members, business owners and elected officials, but the fact is I haven’t met with nearly enough people, nor have I been able to connect with certain demographics, industry representatives, or community leaders ... YET.

The task of networking will never really end for me, nor should it. As the communities within Bent County grow, evolve and develop, there will be new people coming in and different people growing into different business and leadership roles. It is my job, and my goal, to continually connect with these people and help them however I am able.

I’m astounded at the response I get when I tell people, “Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if there’s anything at all that I can assist you with.” I usually get the “what’s the catch?” look.

Business people (at least those in Bent County) aren’t accustomed to having someone in their corner, willing to be a free support in whatever they are struggling with.

This is my first challenge: to become known to as many people as possible, and for those people to know that I’m here to help and that I want to see them succeed.

Now, I guess my ulterior motive would be this: Your success is my success.

When there is one successful business, that means there can be more successful businesses and, soon enough, the whole community will start seeing positive changes that go into every aspect of each individual’s life that lives here.

The only way that I’m going to be able to provide necessary assistance is by connecting and communicating with you. Through you, I will be able to get the full picture of what is going on in Bent County and what is needed to bring development and growth to the area.

Honestly, I’ve heard a lot of opinions ABOUT Bent County from people who don’t have a connection here. It’s time to start hearing directly from the source.

What do YOU see? What do YOU want here? What challenges are YOU affected by? How can I help YOU?

There are a number of other organizations here in Bent County that are also striving to bring positive influence to local businesses and residents. Each has a unique position within our community, and each has the ability to work their own magic to bring good to those that they serve.

A number of these organizations are also duplicating the work of their neighbors, or they aren’t tapping into the full potential and support of their network, which would ultimately boost their efforts for maximum impact and recognition.

Often, this results in the very community that they are trying to benefit asking questions about their purpose, impact and whether or not the organization is worth investing in.

Being that these organizations are often membership- and volunteer-driven, that obviously has an impact on what they have the capacity to do. It’s a vicious cycle.

I am proposing a radical change. Instead of duplicating efforts, let’s combine our strengths, work across the lines that were long ago drawn in the sand and get over whatever petty differences there are to work toward what we all want: positive growth and success for our community … RIGHT?!

There is absolutely no reason why the Bent County Development Foundation can’t partner with and support the efforts of the LA/BC Chamber, LAURA, City Hall, Commissioners, the Historical Foundation, the Community Center and vice versa.

There is no reason why multiple organizations can’t aid in, and contribute to, the creation of a master plan for development of main street.

There’s no reason why McClave, Hasty, Fort Lyon and Las Animas can’t come together to start functioning as united communities for the betterment of our county.

There are more examples of how different entities can and should work together, but the point here is this: We all want the same thing.

We all want to see our communities thrive. We all have different abilities and strengths to make this happen. Why wouldn’t we want to work together?

I am planning my third Community Round Table for July 11, from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. at the Fort Lyon campus. There is going to be fun activities, food trucks, music and art fair, community building opportunities, information tables, a short info session about the upcoming 2020 census, and the opportunity to NETWORK.

I look forward to seeing you there!

For more event information, check out the Bent County Development Foundation’s Facebook page.