GCEDC touts accomplishment, plans at annual meeting

TORRINGTON – Friday, hundreds of residents gathered to celebrate 30 years of the Goshen County Economic Development Corporation, including more recent past accomplishments, as well as planned future successes.

Following a locally sourced “farm-to-table” dinner, 212 attendees heard reports from GCEDC Board President Bob Taylor and organization CEO Ashley Harpstreith at the former D & B Fine Furniture building on Main Street in Torrington.

Taylor recapped highlights of the last three decades, including last year’s merger of GCEDC and the Goshen County Chamber of Commerce, and the success of the Progress Program, which has awarded more than $728,000 back into the community since 2010, according to a press release. The program is funded by a quarter-cent sales tax in Goshen County.

In her speech, Harpstreith emphasized the importance of leadership, community and business development – using the merger with GCCC as an example.

“It took leadership to determine what was best for our community,” she said, adding GCEDC is now a “one-stop shop” for community needs, and GCEDC and GCCC “are synchronized and more strategic in our approach and efforts.”

Harpstreith also announced the recruitment of a three-story, 54-room Cobblestone Hotel at the old Covello Motor Company location. The addition of the $5.8 million property will bring 12 new jobs and have an economic impact of $435,000 in tax revenues for the state and $315,000 for the city over a five-year period, per the press release.

“Since we merged with the Chamber, we’ve been working really hard and diligently with tourism … and keep hearing there’s not enough room (in Goshen County),” Harpstreith told the Telegram. “When we have big events, the hotels sell out. We need another space for events. We did a hotel feasibility study through a third party, and they recommended (a) new hotel. We wrote and received a grant to do an environmental assessment (and) are helping (Cobblestone) with the cleanup and demo – we’re working on grants for that.”

Other highlights in Harpstreith’s speech included the economic impact of the solar eclipse and future tourism campaigns, work completed for broadband efforts and collaborative partnerships in workforce development. Harpstreith stated examples of GCEDC’s business development efforts are sustainable business retention and expansion – visiting over 250 existing businesses this past year, and assisting 71 potential startups, 19 of which have opened creating 35 new jobs with a 90 percent success rate. The organization currently assists four entrepreneurs located in its business incubator at the Goshen Enterprise Center.

Certified Public Accountant Trenda Weisshaar presented GCEDC’s financial report at the meeting, which included accounting for the $3,704,787 collected in the quarter-cent economic development sales tax, which has leveraged $2,273,310 in matching grants bringing $5,466,240 in economic growth to the county.

Award winners were as follows:

• Big Land, Open Skies, Star Employee of the Year: Eleanor Fluckiger, The Bread Doctor

Big Land, Open Heart, Volunteer of the Year: Shelly Duncan, Totes For Hope

Big Land, Open Opportunity Entrepreneur of the Year: AJ’s Soda Shop

Big Land, Limitless Pioneering Business of the Year: The Bread Doctor

Big Chief Award: Bill Law

“We do so much more, and we accomplish so much more, together,” Law said in his acceptance speech. He thanked several individuals, including his wife and family challenged everyone in this room to tell people about Goshen County.

A charity dessert auction capped off the evening and raised $2,075 to benefit the Kiwanis Thanksgiving feast, which will donate hams and turkeys for Goshen County families in need.

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