Branding program seeks funds

A shortage of information and money isn't slowing the progress of the Northwest Colorado Branded Products program steering committee.

The group that's working to market Northwest Colo-rado-made products met Wednesday night to devise a game plan to correct the shortage on both fronts.

Surveys will pro-vide information, and a U.S. De-part-ment of Agriculture -- though a long shot -- could provide funds to really step up the group's efforts.

The NWC Products steering committee has collected nearly 70 surveys completed by agricultural producers, artisans and craftspeople about their products and their needs in getting those products to market. That's not enough, though.

"It's incredible what's out there in terms of products," Meeker resident Tony Weiss said.

Members want as much information as possible to help them define what local producers need -- benefits of joining the program -- and what the program needs from members -- dues and commitments to quality, for example. Surveys can be downloaded from the agriculture link at www.yampavalley.info.

Right now, the group is looking at patterning its program after Maine Made, what members feel is the best template available.

Though the deadline is less than three weeks away, NWC Products committee members agreed to apply for a Value Added Products grant available from the USDA. The amount of the grant will depend on what group members can collect in matching funds and commit in in-kind contributions. The maximum amount of the grant is $100,000, which would pay for planning. The group could hire a coordinator who would work to create a business plan. Committee members are still exploring other grant opportunities to do the same things.

Anyone interested in contributing can call 879-4370.

Until funding is secured, the Yampa Valley Community Agriculture Alliance will pay for the group to reserve www.nwcproducts.org as its Internet address, but it will take some time before there's actually a Web page at that address.

Group members will make a presentation about the project at an economic summit, which will be May 18-19 at the Steamboat Springs Grand Hotel.

The next NWC Products meeting will be at 4:30 p.m. May 5. The location of the meeting has yet to be decided.

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