Why we Advocate for Public Policy That Supports Economic Vibrancy

Most local business people know the Chaffee County EDC for its innovative Ascent business accelerator. Fewer know that we also persistently monitor local policy activity and advocate on behalf of our members for business-friendly public policies that support a thriving, diversified, year-round economy.

We focus on seven key topics that provide the infrastructure on which a successful local economy is built, including housing, childcare and early childhood education, broadband, water and wastewater, education & talent pipeline, land use, and sustainability & innovation.

Starting next week and for the rest of 2024, we’ll shine a light on the importance of these critical topics–and the EDC’s policy work to advance them–by launching a new monthly series of blog posts, email newsletters, social media posts, and policy focused events. 

But before we do, we wanted to share a bit about the people and the processes that drive this important work. 


The EDC’s policy work is conducted in a non-political, non-partisan, fact-based process that leverages a nine-member Public Policy Committee, asked to serve as representatives of the broader EDC membership and the Chaffee County business community as a whole. 

Committee members include some of the foremost experts in their respective fields here in the valley, including:

  • Gwen Allen, Owner/Manager, Allen & Eakins Consulting
  • Dave Blazer, Owner, The Trailhead
  • Georgie Craig, Senior Vice President, 12 Peaks Farms
  • Susan Dempsey Hughes, Broker/Owner, Pinon Real Estate Group
  • Casey Martin, Partner, JVAM Law
  • Dan Niemela, Principal, BBA Water Consultants
  • Jeff Post, Owner/Broker, First Colorado Land Office
  • Joe Smith, SVP, Mountain Regional President, Collegiate Peaks Bank
  • Carlin Walsh, Founder, Elevation Beer Co. 

The Committee meets monthly to review policies emerging at each of our four local jurisdictions: Chaffee County, City of Salida, Town of Buena Vista, and Town of Poncha Springs. The Committee reviews policy actions and proposals, forms positions, and communicates these positions back to the relevant elected bodies in a timely and professional manner. 


The EDC is a policy organization, not a political organization. While we regularly support policies that further Chaffee’s economic health and prosperity, the EDC never backs individual candidates or parties.  


In addition to engaging directly with our public sector leaders both elected and staff, the EDC Policy Committee also hosts a quarterly public speaker series called EDC_Insights (where we host onstage interviews with policy leaders from the public and private sectors) and semi-regular candidate forums called EDC_Forums (where candidates field EDC questions on business policy topics in front of a business community audience.)


The Committee evaluates policy actions in light of that action’s relevance to our seven Public Policy Pillars, representing the issues of greatest importance to the business community broadly. For 2024/25, the Committee has chosen to engage on policy proposals related to the following Pillar topics:

  • Workforce Housing
    • The EDC encourages policies that increase affordable/accessible housing options that benefit the workforce in Chaffee County. This may include code or process changes, incentive toolkits, tax credits and public private partnerships, to name a few.
  • Water & Wastewater 
    • The EDC supports private property rights and inter-jurisdictional, proactive water planning that focuses on the long-term vitality of this valley. We encourage policies, processes and organizations that keep the valley’s precious water rights in local hands to keep economic development, agricultural, and conservation objectives open for generations of future leaders. 
  • Childcare and Early Childhood Education
    • The EDC encourages public policies and investment strategies that increase access to childcare options and early childhood education for our workforce and residents, including the efforts of private, nonprofit, and philanthropic partners.
  • Broadband
    • The EDC encourages efforts at the local, state and federal levels that will bring better access to affordable, reliable broadband infrastructure to Chaffee County. This includes taking steps to ensure “shovel-ready” broadband projects are teed up to be able to leverage federal funding as it becomes available.
  • Education and Talent Pipeline
    • The EDC encourages a commitment to educational excellence and supports efforts to grow/support local workforce talent. We encourage public policy that helps to better align the output of local educational institutions with the needs of industry, with particular focus on work-based learning activities inclusive of reskilling and upskilling.
  • Land Use
    • The EDC encourages land use policies that balance reasonable public input with decisive and consistent administrative action  prioritizing projects that advance the economic vitality of our communities and support local workforce. We encourage efficiency in government processes and transparency for businesses and residents.
  • Sustainability & Innovation
    • The EDC understands that the quality of the business environment in Chaffee County depends on protecting our unsurpassed natural environment. We support thoughtful environmental stewardship and sustainability, balanced against economic opportunity for local people, and evaluate sustainable policy through the lens of innovation, public-private partnerships and application of technology. Both environmental and economic sustainability is vital to the long-term vibrancy of year-round life in the valley. 


In the coming months we’ll dive deeply into each of these key issues and why they matter not just for businesses, but for every individual living in or visiting our amazing community. If you’d like to learn more in the meantime, visit www.chaffeecountyedc.com/policy to learn more and read our in depth Policy Pillar Documents. 

If you’d like to support the EDC’s public policy work by becoming a member, please email info@chaffeecountyedc.com and one of our team will reach out promptly.