Consulting group, Progressive Urban Management Associates (PUMA) provided a “halftime update” to the council on the status of Parker’s Economic Playbook, otherwise known as the Parker Economic Development Strategic Plan.
PUMA is a Denver-based real estate economics and planning firm with 30 years of experience and works with 300 communities across 37 states, including the Parker P3 Strategic Plan.
“We’ve gone through a pretty extensive phase of what we call ‘discovery’, so we’ve been talking to a lot of community members in the business community and beyond,” said Brad Segal, president of PUMA.
As part of the process, a community survey was sent to residents in February. With the survey closing at the end of March, the results will show how the community feels about the town’s quality of life, retail, employment, and more.
T.J. Sullivan, president of the Parker Chamber of Commerce encourages those who live or work in Parker to complete the anonymous survey as it is an opportunity to influence the town’s direction and investment in economic development.
“It’s important to remind folks that the prosperity of businesses and whether they are creating jobs or selling goods, are really key to the tax base and the tax base is what allows this body to provide a quality of life that is really unmatched in the metro area,” said Segal.
As of March 27, there were 425 responses to the survey. Segal said the survey data and trends tend to be even more accurate if there are more than 500 responses.
Through analysis, surveys, interviews and roundtables, PUMA looks to refresh and create a forward-thinking strategy to guide economic development in Parker, one that promotes economic resiliency, diversification, fortify the town’s revenue base and create local job opportunities according to Segal.
“Economic development is different in every community that we work in, so we are looking at really tailoring to what does that mean in Parker and how do we best pursue that moving forward,” said Segal.
Naomi Grunditz Lacewell, an associate with PUMA, spoke about the key themes that emerged from interviews and roundtable discussions.
“There’s widespread support for existing businesses, desire to see those grow, to have more homegrown talent and an understanding of the environment that’s needed to do that such as smaller and more affordable creative spaces to foster entrepreneurship,” said Lacewell.
Other themes included downtown redevelopment, diversifying dining, retail and entertainment experiences, expanding tourism experiences and an opportunity to create a conference center.
Interviews also revealed concerns about traffic congestion and transit in and out of the city as well as an emerging theme of sustainability and environmental issues.
Lacewell said there is recognition of limitations concerning land availability, housing and transportation costs as well as the physical location of Parker seen throughout the interview process.
“We’ve also heard from businesses, both large and small, that they are struggling to recruit talent due to housing, cost of living, transportation costs,” said Lacewell.
Through the market assessment, PUMA examined the existing conditions and plan to identify future economic land use and employment opportunities in the growing community.
According to Senior Associate Andrea Buglione, Parker has maintained its status as a retail destination and retail vacancy is at an all time low, however, this is creating challenges for smaller emerging businesses looking for affordable space.
A recurring topic among the council and associates was the sense of community in Parker. According to the analysis thus far, a trend shows people feel like the sense of community is worsening. On the other hand, Councilmember Laura Hefta believes that is inaccurate as the town has added events to the PACE Center and arts and culture entertainment.
Moving forward, the group brainstormed how the survey could reach more people to get an accurate reading of the sense of community. The associate team also plans to conduct exit interviews for businesses that left Parker and look into partnerships with private and regional sectors.
“Economic vitality really needs to balance preserving that unique lifestyle [of Parker] moving forward, that is a key core value,” said Segal.
Associates at PUMA plan to to come back to the council for further discussion.