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Aspen to take lead on forming economic recovery task force

A view of an empty Hotel Jerome on Main Street in Aspen, March 30, 2020. (Maddie Vincent/The Aspen Times)
Maddie Vincent/The Aspen Times

The city of Aspen is taking the lead on forming a valley-wide economic task force to help local businesses recover from the COVID-19 crisis that has brought the economy to its knees.

City Manager Sara Ott told Aspen City Council on Monday that the effort is in its initial stages but is gaining traction.

“I volunteered the city of Aspen to start developing a framework for this so we can bring in our locals, people who have a lot of expertise into this conversation,” she said. “Already, through the chambers and the local governments of the valley are having at least weekly recovery virtual roundtables to make sure that we have good information flow, and that we are identifying who are those that need to be brought to the table as we move forward.”

Councilwoman Ann Mullins, along with her colleagues, support the effort and have heard from business owners that they’ll need as much support as possible to weather the storm.

“The information I’m getting from the business sector that I’ve been talking to is incredibly valuable,” she said. “We’re going to have so many ideas and so many things to discuss, and so many people that are qualified to be on the task force.”

Mullins is serving as the liaison to the construction, development, real estate and professional services sectors of the local economy.

Mayor Torre is responsible for communicating with those in the restaurant, transportation and food services.

Councilman Ward Hauenstein has lodging and hospitality, Councilwoman Rachel Richards has the arts and nonprofits, and Councilman Skippy Mesirow has retail and outdoor recreation.

Having elected officials serving as liaisons is designed to support and assist small businesses with the evolving landscape surrounding COVID-19 and to create a channel of communication between the city and its many stakeholders who contribute to the economy.

“We want to do all we can as a council to share resources with the business community, hear the members’ concerns and collect the data we need as a city to help empower our recovery efforts,” he said.

Ott has assembled an economic strategy team comprising of Mitch Osur, director of parking and downtown services; Phillip Supino, director of community development; and Ron LeBlanc, special projects manager.

Mesirow during Monday’s meeting offered hope in these trying times.

“This is probably the greatest shock that any of us will live through,” he said. “Not since we devalued silver and moved to the Quiet Years has something so systemic befallen us. And that’s scary and uncertain. But it is unquestionably true that every moment of uncertainty or crisis is also a moment of emergent growth and rebirth.”

csackariason@aspentimes.com


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