Gunnison Valley, Colorado

Regional Economic Prosperity Through Community Vision

Gunnison Valley, Colorado | Completed 2016

Project Details

The Challenge

Key Activities


While attending a Community Builders leadership training, a team from Gunnison, Colorado was wrestling with recent changes in their regional economy. Gunnison Valley is a quintessentially Colorado mountain community. Ranching, spectacular views, and outdoor recreation have, over time, drawn more and more people to the area. With this growth in population and tourism, certain parts of the economy in Gunnison Valley have excelled. However, much of their economy took a hit with the closing of local coal mines, leaving many jobless and significantly decreasing tax revenue.

Wealth within the region was increasing, yet the area was also experiencing some of the deepest pockets of poverty in the state. There was significant economic inequality as too many people were getting left behind.

This created political tension between the upper and lower regions. Yet, leaders in the communities understood the interconnected nature of the valley, acknowledging that they couldn’t think about the future of one part without touching the other. Realizing they needed a shared vision for the valley’s future, local leaders within Gunnison Valley asked Community Builders to help them create a high-level and community-based valley-wide vision in what became the One Valley Prosperity Project (OVPP).

Over the course of two years, local leaders and Community Builders hosted facilitations, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews, along with public, leadership, and stakeholder meetings that contributed to the development of a community-led engagement strategy.

We further provided mediation support to address the tension among leaders from across the valley. Ultimately, with an emphasis on public engagement, the community cast a vision that focused on four initiatives: affordable housing, community health and equity, economic diversification, and a sustainable plan for tourism and recreation.

The project led local leaders in the valley to form the Community Builders Task Force with the mission to increase prosperity within the region. This group continues to meet regularly under a more official name, One Valley Leadership Council.

Every year since, we’ve helped the group assemble a State of the Valley report. These reports look at issues and trends in the region to determine if the work they were doing with the OVPP was affecting those trends, while also holding the group accountable in getting things done.

The group, in tandem with these reports, has produced several successful outcomes, including an additional Community Builders Technical Assistance project, the Gunnison Vibrancy Initiative. Also, the implementation of the ICELab, an entrepreneurial hub in the valley. The group has also made substantial ground in their affordable housing efforts.

The One Valley Prosperity Project has become a nationally-recognized model for how to create a regional vision with a concrete strategic plan.