Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner made a stop on Main Street in Buena Vista Aug. 14, as a part of his tour of the state during the U.S. Senate’s August recess.
“We try to get in every county across the state all the time, and this is an important part of our state,” Gardner said. “I remember coming here as a kid, and it’s neat to see some of the economic opportunities that have blossomed … a lot of what we talked about were affordability issues and the constraints that can be put on a town because of success, and how do we address that, you know?”
Gardner took a walking tour of East Main Street for about an hour, stopping to answer questions from a small gathering of constituents in front of the Watershed, discussing topics ranging from energy to affordable housing to bipartisan compromise to cannabis to the Pearl theater.
“One thing we’ve done with rural theaters … we have theaters that are stuck with the choice of digital cameras that cost a quarter of a million dollars more than they have. And this is the other thing I find interesting: for the towns like, say, Akron, Colorado, if they want a first run of a movie, say they want to get the new Spider-Man movie or the new Marvel movie, they’re required to keep those in the theater for 3 weeks. In a small town, you’ve seen it the first weekend,” Gardner said while standing outside the Pearl on Main street.
“So I actually called the CEO of Disney and said ‘Can you make some kind of exception for rural theaters? I guarantee they’re not making the difference in your quarterly profit.’ So can you just say you guys don’t have to keep it for 3 weeks?”
As the small group made its way east down the street, Gardner and Buena Vista Mayor Duff Lacy discussed how Gardner got into public service, food trucks and the growth of the telecommuting business sector in Buena Vista.
In front of the Trailhead, owner Dave Blazer spoke about the importance of the outdoor recreation industry to the town.
“As we have seen more of a proliferation of the outdoor industry within the state of Colorado, how do we utilize and interconnect what we do well, what we have right around us that has both good commercial and enterprise opportunities,” Blazer said. “What we’re finding is, we’re talking about how do we alleviate or move away from a very summer-seasonal economy into trying to create more opportunities for businesses like light manufacturing or anything to offset with more of a year-round economy.
“One of the biggest parts of that is housing,” Blazer said. “If we had companies we wanted to court and bring here …”
“How would you convince them, on the workforce side, that you have housing?” Gardner asked.
Blazer mentioned the Farm, a concept of building more affordable housing using manufactured homes, as a possible pilot program for bringing in workforce housing to communities quickly.
“Let’s continue the conversation, because just like the idea I mentioned on the dream zone, if you can introduce something to drop the cost by 30 percent, we’ve gotta start somewhere,” Gardner said. “We’ve also been involved in legislation to increase the affordable housing tax credit by about 50 percent. That one will move faster than the dream zone idea, which I think we can get through this year.”
Gardner told The Times, “This bill is something we’re working on, it’s not introduced yet, but to take sort of the idea of opportunity zones and using them for affordable housing. And you can take an opportunity zone now and use it for affordable housing, but that opportunity zone has been set, and your town may or may not have one.
“So, if you had this sort of floating ‘ dream zone’ which was a stand alone opportunity zone as long as it was dedi