Imagine a Sample Town
Eads youth tackle economic development in a unique way.
Who could accomplish the organization and the research associated with Sample Town? Who would write the business plans and distribute them? Who would the people take the time to listen to? The answer was clear. The students at Eads High School.
The plan was simple. The students would go to another small, successful tourism community in Colorado to learn what businesses work and why. They would get an opportunity to discuss the planning, challenges and rewards with the business owners in that community and see first-hand what makes a tourist town work. The students would then spend the next few months investigating viable businesses for Eads and building practical business plans. They will personally man the storefronts on April 28, hand our business plans and answer questions. Their goal? To continue the work they had begun with the Plains Theatre. To encourage the revitalization of downtown Eads, including the continued historic renovation of the Maine Street area.
Did it work?
Amazing partnerships were formed. Organizations and individuals stepped up and offered to help pay for the Road Trip. Among them were the Town of Eads, Eads High School, Lamar Community College, the Delta County Tourism and Donald Oswald, a Kiowa County Commissioner. The Eads students first went to the Colorado Tourism Office in Denver to understand exactly what heritage tourism was, and how it could impact their town. They were then hosted in Glenwood Springs, Paonia, Hotchkiss and Georgetown. Town leaders and businesses owners described their vision, why businesses could prosper in these locations, and the importance of historic preservation in these communities. Students saw the attractions, visited homegrown businesses, stayed in inspiring bed and breakfasts and ate food prepared by local chefs. Unbelievable. Eyes were opened, possibilities were endless and, at the end of the trip, the students ‘got it’.
After the Eads students returned home, they knew what types of businesses they wanted to see in Sample Town. They understood the importance of preserving the buildings on Maine Street Eads. The next question was – where and how do we start preparing for April 28? Colorado Small Business Development Center (SBDC) believed in the project. They believed so much that they were partners in the Road Trip. Afterwards, the La Junta division of SBDC taught a curriculum at Eads High School, designed to help the students better understand the process of starting and running a small business. Invaluable lessons when putting together a valid business plan.
Still new partners were stepping to the plate. If Sample Town were to be a success, the buildings needed to be transformed. Colorado Department of Local Affairs through CSU Extension provided a grant to assist with the process. CU architect students provided renditions of future storefronts with floor plans. Local volunteers came aboard and began cleaning, repairing and painting storefronts and business signs. No longer sad and desolate, Eads was now a vision of what might lie in the future for this small town.
Sample Town is an important lesson for us all. The youth of our country will soon lead our communities. It is each community’s job to help them embrace their past, understand the present, and never lose sight of their vision for the future.
Projects can never succeed without the visionaries that believe. First, thanks must go to the Eads High School Class of 2006, who were the first to decide that something had to be done, and started the process. Many partners have joined since then, and we thank them all.
Eads High School
Colorado Small Business Development Center
Town of Eads
Commissioner Donald Oswald
Colorado Tourism Office
Delta County Tourism
Town of Paonia
Town of Hotchkiss
City of Glenwood Springs
Colorado Dept. of Local Affairs
Kiowa County Economic Development Foundation
Eads Downtown and Around Town Committee
Eads Chamber of Commerce
Southeast Colorado Power Association
Colorado Preservation, Inc.
Southeast Regional Tourism Group