Lessons in Economic Diversification From Small-Town Colorado
“Lessons in Economic Diversification From Small-Town Colorado” via the Daily Yonder on YouTube.

There are two stories to be told about Trinidad, Colorado. With the recent legalization of marijuana in New Mexico, people have been wondering how business in this small town that was once dubbed “Weed Town, USA” will fare. Trinidad is right on the Colorado-New Mexico border. Suddenly, New Mexicans don’t have to make the trip to Colorado and Texans only have to go as far as to New Mexico. Some shops have closed and anecdotal evidence shows that the green rush to get legal weed has slowed down.

But Mayor Phil Rico said that actually, they saw it coming. And they knew they had to make some changes. 

That’s the other story, and maybe the more compelling one: Trinidad has focused on diversifying. With decades of booms and busts already under their belt, they’re tapping into their rich history and natural landscape to attract tourism. Marijuana can certainly offer some incentives, but the new high will be Fishers Peak State Park. It’s the tallest peak between Colorado’s Interstate 25 and the Atlantic Ocean. 

Trinidad also made the move to become a Space to Create. Space to Create Colorado is a program that helps provide affordable commercial, and even residential, space for creative enterprises. Trinidad is a great candidate because it feels like it’s on the brink of becoming an artist’s enclave, and it’s got a community that’s invested in supporting the arts too. 

Along with dozens of late 19th-century brick buildings and a newly-minted state park, Trinidad’s push to diversify has been helped by some natural gifts below ground as well. Recently, an Australian company re-opened a once-shuttered coal mine. This has created a lot of excitement about a helium deposit and the potential for future extraction. By talking with the mayor and other long-time Trinidadans, you can tell they’re not going to rest easy with some mining riches. They’ve seen it before and this time around there’s a push for balance. 

That really is the takeaway here. Trinidad isn’t just an old west town at the crossroads of another industry bust. Instead, it’s aiming to blaze new thoroughfares to long term stability and success. 


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