Economic development group hires coordinator for area

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The local Economic Development Council is one step closer to creating an economic development corporation with its hiring of a director.

Wallace Ralston Jr. of St. Petersburg, Fla., was hired March 25 to become the Economic Development Director for the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership, the non-profit corporation that is being organized to lead the local economy into a stronger, more diversified era.

Ralston was one of more than 60 candidates that applied for the job.

"Of those, 40 percent were qualified and 25 percent were very qualified," said Sue Graler, EDC member and chair of the hiring committee. "From that we did four phone interviews.

"We were really pleased we had a selection of candidates to choose from. We didn't have to take just anybody that came along."

Ralston immediately stood out from the other three finalists, said Dean Hollenbeck, president of the EDC.

"We feel real comfortable with Wally," he said. "The biggest thing was his personality and people skills his ability to pull various constituencies and groups together to accomplish a goal. He is very people orientated and we're very pleased with that."

Ralston has worked since 1997 as an independent consultant on economic development projects with state, county and city governments, and private consulting firms. He has worked with World Bank, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Watson Wyatt, Hewitt and the U.S. Department of Defense, among others, Ralston's resume shows.

Ralston also worked for the Wyoming Business Council from 1999 to 2000. This experience is a plus because Ralston has "an understanding of the culture of our area," Graler said.

Ralston visited Craig March 23 through March 26.

In related news, the EDC received notice April 1 that its application for an Enterprise Zone designation was approved by the state.

This designation allows the economic development corporation to offer prospective members a 25-percent tax credit of their annual contribution on their Colorado state income tax.

According to Hollenbeck, Tom Thornberry will send in the Articles of Incorporation for the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership this week.

The non-profit corporation will be created by its dues-paying members and from these members the executive board will be created.

Automatic board members will be those companies that pledge $5,000 or more a year.

The board will also include a Craig and Moffat County representative.

Other members will be elected from and by the other member companies.

The minimum contribution for membership is $250.

The executive board will have no less than five but no more than 11 members, and will "be Wally's boss," said Jim Ferree, EDC member and Craig city manager.

Once the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership Corporation is in place, the EDC will be disbanded. For the time being, a temporary executive board, made up of Brian Lundy, Dave Dempster, Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton, Ferree and himself, has been organized to work with Ralston when he steps into his role as director next month, Hollenbeck said.

"We'll be there to help Wally begin putting everything together," he said. "We'll collect the pledges from our members now that we have the tax credit set, and create the membership of the corporation, and then have a full executive board take over."

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