Crystal LaTier

Crystal LaTier

Crystal LaTier, executive director of El Paso County Economic Development, has always been very community-minded. 

“I’ve been a part of this community since first grade. I went to Mitchell High School, then went to UCCS, and I’m raising my young family here — so I believe in this great community,” she said.

Straight out of college, LaTier took a job with Colorado Springs School District 11, where she taught for three years. “It was an incredible experience,” she said, “but also I was able to identify challenges for students outside the classroom — the kind that teachers don’t always have

a lot of influence over.

“I’ve always had an interest in community and economic development,” LaTier said, recalling a favorite college course: Sociology of Urban Development, where she “got to hear about long-term planning to revitalize areas.”

LaTier left education to work for the county 11 years ago in an entry level position as a coordinator, starting out working with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and Community Development Block Grant programs focused on economic development for residents of limited means, and specifically working on affordable housing initiatives. “We talk a lot about tax incentives for businesses,” she said, “but it’s also important to employers that employees have affordable places to live, have a good quality of life, and feel like they are a part of the community.”

During that time she took advantage of the county’s professional development opportunities. She’s been serving as executive director for the last two years, where the goal is to create a robust, diversified and equitable economic ecosystem.

Not surprisingly, given her past as an educator, LaTier is a big reader. “One of my all-time favorite works of fiction is A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini,” she says, but for nonfiction, she prefers personal development writers such as Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. 

Under her leadership, the county has pursued a holistic approach to economic development, focusing on the three areas of business incentives, affordable housing and community development initiatives. 

“Typically you see those areas separated — here we understand there is an inherent connection between those areas. … Public policy in one of those areas impacts the other two,” she said.

LaTier’s family life is something that impacts her approach to work. As the mother of two young children, LaTier feels that “being a mother has allowed me to be better at my job and approach it with a different skill set and intention.

“We love just being outside in Colorado, hiking as a family, spending time exploring the outdoors,” she said. LaTier points out that El Paso County just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the parks system, and her family recently they set an intention to visit all of the regional and state parks. Their favorite is Fox Run, a park in northern El Paso County.

LaTier is especially proud of the agency’s work last year during the pandemic, assisting local businesses and nonprofits with federal funds. 

“Last year we provided grant assistance to local business and nonprofits of up to [$20,000]. We were able to give 864 grants in the first round, and 627 in the second. So over 1,200 unique businesses were helped in those two rounds of funding.” In total, they’ve been able to help small businesses with $24 million in grants over

the two rounds.

The challenges COVID-19 and its associated restrictions presented were tough. “Folks didn’t know how to respond to that. … Since it was something we hadn’t seen before, there were no best practices [to apply] from it happening previously. So that was a very unique challenge.” Being able to make an impact with her team at EPCED during such a difficult time is something LaTier remains proud of.

“El Paso county is over 2,000 square miles, larger than the state of Rhode island, with eight different municipalities and large pockets of unincorporated county, and all those entities have their own unique assets, challenges and needs. Understanding that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development and working with communities on their unique needs is crucial,” she said. 

“I also have the privilege of sitting on the board of directors for an org called NACCED, that really also allows me some great opportunities to learn about best practices across the nation in community and economic development, and to see how those can assist our region, also allows us a platform to showcase work being done here,” LaTier said.

“This is a great place to work live play and raise a family. I’m really committed to public service in our region, and ensuring that there’s opportunities for community members, recognizing and honoring our local character, values and legacies.”