Economic partnership weighs uses for grant

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The Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership is considering ways to use a $50,000 grant it was awarded more than a year ago, but never formally accepted because of disorder among the board of directors and within the partnership.

Now that the board has overcome the dissension, members are ready to take advantage of the grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The limits of the grant are few, and EDP board members are ready to begin accepting proposals from community members and businesses.

"I think this is an excellent way for us to provide assistance through the organization to grow existing businesses," EDP Director Tom Flavin said.

Flavin has been soliciting advice on how to collect proposals, but the board has not decided on a formal process.

Marketing assistance for the Downtown Business Association is one idea that's been proposed for the money. Another is conducting seminars on issues affecting existing businesses.

"There's a wide variety of options out there," Flavin said.

He expects the EDP to have access to the funds within 60 days and hopes to have several projects lined up once the money becomes available.

At a meeting Wednesday, the board approved a resolution accepting the grant, which requires a $20,000 match. Most of the match will come from in-kind services, mostly in the form of Flavin's salary for his work to administer the grant.

The board also established a committee to oversee the grant and decide how the money will best be used.

The uses of the grant are flexible, but the USDA will guide the EDP through the process of establishing conditions and guidelines for its use.

The board must spend the money by December 2005.

"We're being encouraged to spend it sooner rather than later so we can get more funds," Flavin said.

Beyond the grant, the EDP is working to bolster membership and establish contribution guidelines.

"The whole focus is to generate more money from the private sector," Flavin said.

Though several businesses contribute to the EDP, the majority of its funding comes from the city and the county, with each contributing $25,000.

Currently, businesses or individuals can become members of the EDP with a $250 contribution. The board is considering implementing a sliding membership fee that takes into account the number of employees a business employs, or who much it generates in sales.

"We've been talking about ways to do a fee structure, but we really haven't had any ideas," said Scott Cook, the partnership's board chairman.

The board's first step in increasing membership will be to develop list of key industries in Moffat County and identify people within those industries who are willing to act as go-betweens and the primary contact for that industry group.

Developing a fee structure by researching how other rural economic development groups handle their fees is the second step.

"A lot (of groups) do that because they want to scale membership fees to what businesses can afford," said Pattie Snidow with the Governor's Office of Economic Development.

Cook estimated that 60 to 70 percent of the EDP's members have contributed at the $250 level.

"We need to raise more money," he said.

The third step in the EDP's membership plan is the creation of a marketing piece that summarizes the benefits and value of EDP membership.

"One of the reasons we need to get this membership drive going is to get the resources we need to keep this going and getting the marketing piece in place," Flavin said.

Included in the EDP's marketing materials will be a summary of the tax deductions and credits available to those who make a contribution.

"That's certainly an added benefit to the marketing materials," board treasurer Tonya Griffith said.

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

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