Wednesday, April 7

QeH2 Interviews Strategic Local Partner Castle Rock Economic Development Council

by Alex Repola

Have you heard of the Castle Rock Economic Development Council (Castle Rock EDC)? No, you’re not alone. Playing a behind-the-scenes role, Castle Rock EDC is a full service, membership-driven economic development organization that partners with both private and public entities to serve the 2,500 businesses and roughly 50,000 residents here locally.

Economic development refers to social and technological progress through local business relationships, including both new and existing organizations. Castle Rock is situated between two major markets, Colorado Springs and Denver, and businesses are finding lots of support and encouragements from organizations including Castle Rock EDC. I had the pleasure of sitting down with CEO of the EDC here in Castle Rock, Frank Gray, to talk about the growth he is seeing not only for businesses, but between the Castle Rock EDC and Board Member QeH2.

Q; Tell me a little about yourself Frank?
A: Most recently I served as the Vice-President for Adams County Economic Development Corporation. I came here in September because I felt like Castle Rock was a place that was going to explode. The intelligent move that I made is picking the right spot, and I picked a spot based on knowing things were going to happen, and that’s what we’re seeing. The other thing that’s happening, even with our tough economy and the loss of jobs, Castle Rock itself is doing well. I was at Adams County EDC for six years. Prior to that, I was a volleyball coach at Baylor University and at the U.S.A. Volleyball team. I live in Broomfield making the commute down here. Ultimately, I would like for my family and I to live down here. My wife is a teacher and effected by the state budget cuts. She can’t really leave her job right now and expect to just find a new one like she could have three or four years ago.

Q: What led you to work in the non-profit sector?
A: The Castle Rock EDC is really a business organization, not really a non-profit. Technically, we are a 501(C)(6), a not-for-profit, but we are a business organization with members from the business community making us a much more effective organization. The cool part about it is that we have public and private sector funding; we can act as a mediator between the business community and town. We have long-term relationships with the community and the town that we need to consider when making decisions. We are very invested in being partners with both parties.

Q: Take me through the process of a new business coming to town and wanting to use the EDC’s services.
A: Generally, we’ll get a call from a broker, the Metro Denver EDC, or the state saying they have a client who is interested in moving to the area. We then go through all the different real estate and availability depending on the type of organization they are, we may be able to offer them incentives to move to Castle Rock. Once the deal is wrapped up, we would make an announcement that so-and-so company is coming to Castle Rock. They generally will have a lot of questions about demographics to make sure their company will thrive here. We provide a lot of information and data to these organizations to help them with the transition.

Q: Do you have a specific size or type of company you cater to? Do you work with international organizations that are interested in opening up shop in Castle Rock?
A: We see a little bit of everything. One thing we want to do is make sure we are assisting our local businesses, making sure we are taking care of our existing businesses as well as the new businesses. One of my big pitches when talking with new companies is, ‘We’re not just going to get you here; we’re going to take care of you once you’re here.’

Q: How important is it for the EDC to have a trusted position within the local business community?
A: I think the Economic Development Councils that are doing it right are like the Northwest Mutual’s of the World. The quiet company, that’s what we strive to be. We’re not out seeking the press; we don’t need to be in the spotlight. We help get things done behind the scenes and we value the confidentiality of our clients. Our job is to help educate folks on what we do, how we do it, and why it’s important.

Q: What things have the EDC felt from the past few years of tough economic times?
A: Some of our funding comes from the town, and we’ve seen a decrease in our funding. This organization works because of private and public sector funding. The reality is that when something affects the economy, you can see it as a catastrophe or as an opportunity to change. I think that Castle Rock has taken the right approach and that’s admitting that the way things were done before weren’t necessarily the correct way to do it. We can use this opportunity and downturn in the economy to do it things better. Through our partnership with the town, we are seeing them take care of relationships with developers, making things better.

Q: What other local organizations do you partner with to promote economic development?
A: The Town of Castle Rock, the Downtown Development Authority, the Castle Rock Merchants Association, the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce all work within the Community Economic Partnership (CED) working together to give business a single point of contact.

Q: How did you hear about QeH2?
A: I think I ran into Eric Pratt pretty early on when I started here, and we had discussions about our I.T. needs and the fact that you guys wanted to meet more local businesses. We helped each other and discovered that this was a great relationship and took it to the next level. QeH2 became members of the EDC and received some referrals from us on jobs and connected you with some community organizations.

Q: From the EDCs point of view, how is QeH2 different than other I.T. guys?
A: The experience behind QeH2 is not just the technology side. It is, ‘We’re business guys who know how to utilize technology.’ You understand how business works and can relate it to how technology can help in facilitating the processes. Business owners can call up some other computer repair company with the guy who has the technical degree that will come fix your computer, but that’s not really what your clients are looking for. They are looking for in-depth, business knowledge on company processes and how it relates to technology and making things more efficient.

Q: What do you see as the future partnership between the EDC and QeH2?
A: Ultimately, it’s a partnership. If it’s not a partnership, one side is seeing the good side and the other is confused about their role. Both sides need to feel like they are getting something out of the relationship for it to continue. Not only is QeH2 a member of my Board of Directors, acting as decision-makers here in Castle Rock, shaping the community here locally, QeH2 wants to be connected to their community, see where they can really help organizations.

Q: What is your view on social media in the business place? Does it play a role in your marketing and advertising efforts?
A: Social media plays an interesting role in our society right now because anyone 30 years and younger are expected to have some sort of social-media interaction. The 30-45 age groups saying they know what it is but don’t use it or think it’s a waste of time. The 45 and up age group, think this is the dumbest thing out there and completely useless. They want to stick with what they know in relationships and face-to-face contact. Most of the decision makers right now that we deal with are not 25 and 30 years old, social media doesn’t really necessarily play a very big role in our marketing efforts. The longer we go the 30-year olds become 35 and 40-year olds become 45 and so on and so forth, and you begin to see the line between business and social get more and more blurred every day. Is Facebook more business-oriented or for personal use? Is LinkedIn more business or social? The reality is that more people are connected on Facebook. More companies are saying, if we want to be more hip and cool, we’re going to need to hire someone that’s hip and cool that can do these types of things.

Q: Closing thoughts?
A: The thing that I have been very impressed with is the fact that you guys really stick with things. We recently did a move and ran into problems that QeH2 or the EDC didn’t anticipate, but our tech Danny keeps things moving forward and has spent a lot of time getting us on track and we don’t get a huge bill for it. You stick to what is agreed on and you do it right and follow through every time.

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