As the oldest non-Native American community in Colorado, the San Luis Valley (SLV) is a historical region, thriving for decades with their agricultural and tourism economy since its establishment in 1851. SLV is home to the oldest business in the state, the R & R Market, a general store and communal place for the community.
Over the years, however, the economic growth of the SLV, and specifically Costilla County, has slowed down. But with renewed efforts by the Valley to stimulate growth, with support from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), there seems to be hope on the horizon for a bigger, more diverse market.
SLV and Costilla County have participated in several state economic development programs in their attempts to grow their economy again. For example, in 2016, Costilla County participated in the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI), a program designed to help rural communities diversify their local economies. Through the REDI program, Costilla County was able to develop a closed steel mill a saw mill, which will create up to 400 jobs over the next five years.
SLV also participated in the first round of Colorado’s Blueprint 2.0 Marketing Initiative, a program created to turn local economic needs into a statewide set of initiatives, advancing the economies of communities around the state. SLV created branding materials and a plan for marketing tourism assets–an industry with much to offer the area.
None of this, however, means that Costilla County is letting go of the industry they were built upon. It is extremely important to the residents of the SLV to preserve their unique culture, so the method of growth must be done carefully; therefore, while there is a push to bring more markets into the county, there are also efforts to diversify existing ones, such as attracting value added industries to complement the potato industry. This could include bringing in potato chip companies or even packaging companies to the region.
SLV is also building their creative industries sector with financial and technical assistance from the Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) division of OEDIT. CCI has provided several operating grants to organizations in SLV, including the Creed Rep Theater and the Crestone Music Festival, and has held three public art projects in Alamosa in the past three years. The Town of Crestone has also worked with CCI through the creative districts program.
OEDIT has committed itself to developing the counties and regions of Colorado that have fallen behind on the growth curve by diversifying their local economies to reach their potential. By supplementing various grants and support to the region’s staunch endeavors, SLV and Costilla County are on their way to becoming a thriving region of Colorado’s economy.
The San Luis Valley was recently featured in the show Colorado Experience on Rocky Mountain PBS. Watch and learn more about the history of the region and what the future holds.