At the Minority and Women’s Chamber Coalition 2016 Policy Retreat in December, minority and women-owned small business owners had the opportunity to talk directly to Colorado legislators and learn about upcoming legislation that could impact their businesses.
The panel, moderated by Michelle Campbell and Clarence Low, included Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman (D), Sen. Dominick Moreno (D), Assistant Minority Leader of the House Cole Wist (R), Rep. Leslie Herod (D), Sen. Tim Neville (R), and Rep. Justin Everett (R). Opening remarks were provided by Anna Ewing, Chief Operating Officer of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
The annual event brought together these six legislators to discuss the recent Presidential election, legislative priorities for the upcoming session, possible impacts on the minority business community, and potential challenges Colorado faces in 2017. Four major themes emerged from the panel discussion including collaboration, transportation, affordable housing and workforce training.
Panelists emphasized the importance of collaboration going forward from the 2016 Presidential election and the need to support Colorado’s small businesses. Both parties want to continue to see the state’s economy grow, especially in rural areas where small businesses employ 85 percent of the workforce.
Education and workforce training was discussed as a potential opportunity and challenge for Colorado. Panelists discussed the expansion of vocational training in K-12 schools, affordability of a college education and preparing millennials to enter the workforce. Senator Neville observed that college is not for everyone, and trade school might be better for some individuals. Panelists also remarked how college debt is increasingly becoming more of a concern and can hinder economic development.
Affordable housing – especially for minority families – was discussed as a major challenge facing Colorado. The lack of affordable housing was recently identified as a hurdle to economic resiliency for small and rural communities. Panelists expressed concern about the diversity of housing options coming online, and that fewer families are qualifying for home loans. Representative Wist mentioned that issues around construction defects laws are a high priority for him.
Transportation issues and traffic congestion also continue to be a challenge for Colorado. Panelists discussed the I-70 corridor and the proposed expansion through north Denver and Commerce City. Some expressed concern over the cost, while others expressed concern about the impact on local neighborhoods.
Rosy McDonough, director of the Colorado Minority Business Office, provided the closing remarks for the event. She remarked that more vocational training opportunities are needed and collaboration is essential for successful economic development in communities.
Additional information about the Minority and Women’s Chamber Coalition and future events can be found online at http://www.mwcc-colorado.org/.