Sleeping with the Enemy

Bill Bell and David Fishering teamed up for a virtual panel discussion during West Slope Startup Week about how businesses and local government can work together.

Montrose gained visibility in a widely-attended regional event when two city employees and a local business owner participated in West Slope Startup Week, a virtual conference in which entrepreneurs from around Western Colorado met in a variety of Zoom meetings to discuss business, economic growth and ideas.

City Manager Bill Bell and owner of Storm King Distilling Co. David Fishering joined up for a panel discussing communication and teamwork between business owners and local governments.

Bell and Fishering’s panel, entitled “Sleeping with the Enemy,” discussed ways for the two to get along and work toward the benefit of both parties. The session was moderated by Montrose Director of Business Innovation and Tourism Chelsea Rosty, who had also hosted the in-person “Coffee and Connect” event in Riverbottom Park earlier that day.

“The primary message is that government and businesses can and should work together,” Rosty said. “We went through both from the business side and from the government side, talking about the importance of communicating early and often about projects. ...That’s super important to gain trust from the community: making sure that both government and businesses aren’t singularly focused on that one business or project that’s important only to them, but that the entire community is in focus when we think about the way we do projects.”

By having Montrose participate in the regional event (which brought presenters and attendees from Denver and around Western Colorado), Rosty said that it brought attention to the unique Montrose community and the way the local government has been creating a way to “fast track” the process for business projects.

“I just hope it gives people an insight to the real, personal side of government, especially with Bill Bell being on the panel, showing that there’s humanity here, that we’re here to help and we want to help,” Rosty said.

“I think that it’s super obvious to me that if entrepreneurs and business owners hear about the way Montrose does things and they inadvertently want to become part of it, we can either gain some business expansion or growth here, but to know there’s a support system here for them as well. We really feel like the West Slope is stronger together.”

Although it was part of West Slope Startup Week, the “Coffee and Connect” discussion was held only in-person at Riverbottom Park in Montrose. Rosty said the purpose of the event, titled “5 Tips for Staying Sane as a Leader,” was to help people in leadership positions find resources to take care of themselves.

“The goal was just to get business owners and community leaders together to talk about ways to keep them mentally healthy as leaders in general but also during COVID,” Rosty said.

The five highlights of the message were setting aside time in the morning to be quiet, getting physical and outdoor activity, being and having a mentor, reading, and knowing when and how to reach out for professional help if needed.

Brian Watson, co-founder of Proximity in Montrose, also participated in the West Slope Startup Week event through a series of “book club” sessions that discussed topics around startups and business based on four different books.

Originally planned as a conference to mirror Denver’s highly-attended Startup Week, the West Slope Startup Week was moved to a virtual format when COVID-19 put restrictions on travel and large gatherings. Panelists and participants (the event was free) tuned in via Zoom, and sessions were also recorded for later viewing. It will continue until July 30, and more information can be found at westslopestartupweek.com.

“We’ve just seen that when people get to know Montrose, they’re attracted to it,” Rosty said. “That sort of nucleus of activity is attractive to businesses from the outside, and they can have the quality of life here in Montrose but not having to live in that urban environment. It’s good on a personal level and also on a business level.”

Load comments