A business base camp in Glenwood Springs | AspenTimes.com

A business base camp in Glenwood Springs

Charlie Wertheim
Glenwood Springs Post-Independent
Colorado lawmakers visit with local business owners while taking in the views of the Roaring Fork Valley as they tour Glenwood Adventure Park during the Business Base Camp Program on Thursday.
Kyle Mills / Post Independent

With a gaggle of lawmakers and business leaders, the Business Base Camp pitched its tent — if briefly — at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on Thursday afternoon.

According to the Colorado Competitive Council website, “Business Base Camp is an innovative, unique program that connects freshman legislators on a series of tours through their respective districts with Colorado business leaders.”

Legislators and business leaders from across the state listened to a few talks, the longest being from Jeff Peterson of the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance.

Peterson gave a short history of the quarry that sits on the hill below the caverns and the owner’s current plans to expand the 20-acre site to 321 acres.

State Sen. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, a Base Camp alumnus also in attendance, said, “If the federal government approves this it still has to go through a number of state groups, so should that happen you’ll hear a lot more about it.”

Steve Beckley, owner of the caverns and Iron Mountain Hot Springs, told the group about a project he’s working on that will provide employee housing.

“One thing we did add this year is we’re building a new complex for CDOT. … On top of the CDOT office building we’re building 19 employee housing units that’ll be for our employees and CDOT’s employees. … You have to actually work in 81601, work in our city, to live in this housing,” Beckley said.

The pandemic’s effect on business came up several times.

Hotel Colorado general manager Christian Henny said, “We are still virtually unable to hold any groups or events, and I can assure you we’ve had many crying brides and yelling brides when we’ve had to ruin their special day by telling them they can’t have it.”

The federally boosted unemployment insurance — which is currently slated to end July 31 — also has posed challenges.

“I’d like to relay the challenges we are having in regards to staffing. According to the Denver Post, recently two-thirds of the unemployed are receiving more aid than they earned on their previous job. This is resulting in many open positions remaining unfilled during a time of record unemployment,” Henny said.

In more positive news, Henny and Beckley reported having no trouble acquiring Paycheck Protection Program funding.

“It was easy. We were watching it, and our bank was right there with us. We had our application in the first day it was available, so we got money in our account very quickly. It was a lifesaver,” Beckley said.

“In our case, it was having a good relationship with the bank. I think we had ours approved in 24 hours,” Henny said.

The coronavirus also forced a change in how the city marketed to tourists.

“We halted all our advertising in March, had to rethink a lot of campaigns we had going. … We’ve changed all our messaging to ‘We’ve got a protocol in place to keep you safe, bring your mask, and help us help you be safe,’” said Lisa Langer, director of tourism promotion for Visit Glenwood Springs, which is part of the city chamber resort association.

Henny said that post-lockdown, Hotel Colorado reservations are still down.

“Since reopening we’re down about 25% over last year. … On a weekend we’re still close to selling out, but during the week we’re down about 50%,” Henny said.

Langer underlined the importance of Amtrak to local tourism.

“It’s a huge boon to our economy. It’s very sad that Amtrak has implemented fall reductions. … During the summer so many people get off that train. It’s huge for us. We have a large population of Amish that come and visit our community, and they only travel by train,” Langer said.