Economic partnership targets new businesses

Opinions varied Wednesday on the issue of providing businesses with an incentive to relocate in Moffat County, but Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership board members agreed it was an issue that needed to be explored as the EDP launches its business recruitment program.

Providing government-funded incentives is often a controversial issue, usually with existing business owners taking one side and government officials taking the other.

"If a car dealership wants to relocate here, what incentives should we offer them to come?" City Manager Jim Ferree asked EDP board Chairman Scott Cook, owner of Cook Chevrolet.

Rather than argue the effect on existing businesses, board members agreed with EDP Director Tom Flavin's assertion that being competitive is crucial to recruiting new businesses and that providing incentives is part of that.

"It's important that we realize all the factors that go into a successful recruitment program," Flavin said.

He suggested the EDP evaluate several factors: the ease of doing business in Moffat County, fees associated with opening a business, sales and property tax comparisons and government cooperation and incentives, or lack thereof, and compare those with other towns to see where Craig and Moffat County stand. Then, the city, county and EDP can meet to discuss ways to become more competitive.

"Having no incentives eliminates a big pool of potential prospects, and we need to know that up front so we're not wasting our time," Flavin said.

The EDP is expanding its focus to business recruitment now that its "Growing Local Business" grant program is under way.

At its meeting Wednesday, the board voted unanimously to implement a plan that targets businesses within five sectors that have the largest economic impact in Moffat County.

Those have been identified as mining/oil and gas exploration, the service industry, retail, transportation and housing and businesses that support those industries.

Some of the steps the plan outlines include:

n Brand Moffat County as "pro energy."

n Support the development of tourism and recreation amenities.

n Develop broadband communications capabilities for economic development purposes.

n Assess local purchasing habits.

There are many steps that need to be taken to launch a business recruitment program, Flavin said.

"We're going to play to our strengths," he said. "We need to identify what the best options might be for Craig and Moffat County."

Developing a marketing program and upgrading the EDP's Web site are two of the first steps. The third is to designate a team of residents who will handle site visits and are trained to "close the deal."

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

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