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Bodo Industrial Park helped grow city, county

(Courtesy of Richard Ballantine)
Foundation responsible for development has come to an end

The effort to create an industrial park for Durango in the early 1970s predated the ubiquitous economic development organizations at various levels of government that are commonplace today. While the leaders of the four major banks competed for accounts and loans, they understood the weight that they would bring as a group advocating for a significant light industrial development location just beyond the city limits.

While some would be recognized with their name on a street sign, that was not the motivation.

Durango’s economy was growing with a mix of businesses, and downtown was fully developed. It was imagined that new businesses would have a place to land and some businesses would continue off the side streets and Second Avenue.

The effort would have a broad operating foundation, endorsed by the leaders of businesses large and small, and encouraged by the city and the county. But the effort would require significant underwriting. As in most developments, infrastructure had to come first and sales trailed. Bankers knew how to provide for that.

At the 1st National, the White family, William and Butch, father and son, and president Bob Sawyer, was on board. Burns National Bank was in the mix, as was Durango Savings & Loan, which would be renamed Centennial Savings & Loan and led by Jim Sheppard, and The Bank of Durango led by Nick Turner. Steve Parker, who would lead Burns, continued the momentum. They were banks that if not fully locally owned, had local boards of directors with influence and able to make local decisions.

Redfield rifle telescopes, which was located where the La Plata County Jail is now, was one of the very first occupants of the Durango Industrial Foundation’s Bodo Industrial Park. La Plata Electric Association would eventually become a significant resident and its CEO, David Potter, would be a president of the foundation, a seat that rotated among the leadership. The city of Durango took a corner of the frontage road, as did Wagner Equipment. Rocky Mountain Chocolate built at the extreme high side of the park, and in between would be an extraordinary mix of trucking and construction companies, social services nonprofits, financial and service providers, educational specialties and government departments. The U.S. Army’s National Guard Armory (a unit that moved to Cortez in a consolidation) was there, and is now used by search and rescue. Some of the offices then as now had a large complement of employees, other businesses two or three.

Retail was discouraged or even prohibited originally, as was housing. To fill out the park, the latter became accepted.

And businesses did move from downtown. It was not immediate, but Jim Morehart and Pat Murphy built new dealerships across the street from each other at the south end of the park, opening up prime square footage on 2nd Avenue and 7th and 8th.

In recent years, with the park under city regulations and all its land in private hands, the need for the foundation has come to an end. As to creating a subsequent park close-in, land prices and infrastructure costs make that almost impossible with the foundation’s limited assets. As reported May 5 in The Durango Herald, the foundation is closing, its assets of about $1 million to be used for business education at Fort Lewis College and for local workforce support.

Bodo Industrial Park was a one-time, extraordinarily cooperative community success that greatly expanded and diversified Durango’s and La Plata County’s employment base and service providers and aided in Durango’s downtown economic transformation. Every community should be so fortunate.