EDP solicits funds at annual meeting


While it was recommended Wednesday that the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership make hiring a new director its top priority, board members put raising funds first, saying no money meant no director.

"With no dough, there's no show," EDP board member Scott Cook said. "The last thing we wanted to do was hire a director and have no money to pay that person."

Nearly 50 Craig residents, elected officials and business owners attended the EDP's annual meeting Wednesday and were updated on the group's activities and encouraged to donate to the partnership.

J.J. Johnston, who worked in the governor's office of economic development and is now working for Larimer County, said in his 27 years of working as an economic developer, he's learned that several factors are needed to successfully boost a town's economy. These include good looks, good personality and money.

Johnston said all Craig is lacking now is money, but he urged EDP board members to take care when hiring a new director.

"The single biggest decision you're going to make is who you hire," he said.

The EDP has been without a director since January, when Wally Ralston resigned following a tie vote to terminate his employment. Advertisements for an opening have resulted in more than 60 applications flooding in.

The board narrowed those to 12 and then to seven, but has put off interviews and a selection until it could be determined that there was the financial support for the position.

The EDP reported net assets of $44,926.57 as of Dec. 31, 2002, and though the new director's salary will be based on qualifications, it's expected to draw an annual salary in the $60,000 range.

Board members may have been preaching to the choir, as nearly half of the meeting's attendees are contributors.

Craig resident Larry Ellgen asked Cook what the board was doing to insure the new director would be better than the last. Cook said the board is learning from past mistakes, doing a background check on all finalists and will involve more people in the hiring process.

Johnston recommended the board look for someone with passion for the job who was willing to stay at least three to five years.

"Very thoughtfully and carefully pick your next candidate," he told board members. To meeting attendees, he said, "If you haven't contributed to the economic development corporation here, please do. Don't wait, so when a new person comes on, he or she can hit the ground running with a lot of assets."

The minimum contribution is $250 a year. A contribution of that amount or more makes an individual or business an EDP member with a single vote.

"We can't get this boat upstream with just a few players and we can't row a boat with just a few paddlers," EDP board chairman and Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton said.

Cook painted an economic picture for audience members that showed a stable economy, but pointed out some concern. There has been job growth, but in secondary, low-paying jobs in the service and retail industry. For a healthy economy, Moffat County needs to seek diversity and primary jobs that offer good wages and benefits, he said.

That's one goal of the EDP but not the only one.

"I think everyone on the economic development board feels economic development is not necessarily bringing in new business, it's making sure existing businesses are healthier," Cook said.

Currently, 68 percent of jobs in Moffat County pay less than the state average. Changing that means focusing on existing businesses as well as recruiting new ones.

The partnership plans to do that by working to encourage people to shop locally and it was suggested that the town host more conventions.

Frank Moe, owner of Ramada Inn, said the hotel had its best month ever in June when several conventions were held locally.

"The purpose of this meeting is to get members," EDP board member Jerry Thompson said. "We want ideas and input."

He urged those who wanted to contribute to the EDP to talk to any board member. And Craig Mayor Dave DeRose urged people attending Wednesday's meeting to contribute.

"I wholeheartedly agree that any business person in this community should be a part of this," he said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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