Group wants to grow, collaborate

Development partnership sets goals, including increasing membership

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After six months without a director, Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership has 31 fewer members at the end of 2005 than the year before.

Rebuilding membership is one of the five goals the partnership's board of directors set for 2006.

"We were in neutral while we were without a director," board President Scott Cook said. "We need to expand, spread the word and recruit."

Increasing membership will give the organization the financial and community support it needs to meet its other goals, director Tim Gibbs said.

The goal is to increase to 40 the number of members, he said.

Gibbs was hired in September. In the past five months, he has identified work force training and developing relationships with other groups as issues the partnership should focus on, he said. Those are included in the organization's 2006 goals.

Gibbs said Moffat County's energy industry is faced with an aging work force, for which there is a lack of trained replacements.

"Looking at jobs that are open and an aging work force, this is probably our highest need," Gibbs said.

Gibbs said that he's working with Moffat County High School vocational-tech teachers and Colorado Northwestern Community College-Craig officials in search of a solution.

"These are our partners," he said. "This is an opportunity that we have right here in our community today. We want to position ourselves more attractively for growth and attraction of new businesses. A trained work force is the best incentive we can ever offer."

The partnership also will direct its efforts toward creating an industrial park on property owned by the city on First Street.

The work likely will entail preparing the site for construction, Gibbs said. There are no plans to build at this point, he said.

Developing a database of available land and buildings, including property the partnership controls, is important to the group's efforts to attract new businesses, Gibbs said. Creating that database also is one of the 2006 goals.

Helping existing businesses to grow is as important as improving an environment for new businesses, he said.

Last year, the partnership received a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, which it passed on as "mini grants" to local entrepreneurs. Businesses used the money to create marketing plans for business assessments.

The partnership will reapply for the grant this year and possibly use it to create a micro-loan program, Gibbs said. A committee of board members has been charged with applying for the grant and outlining its possible uses.

"These are all pretty broad goals," Gibbs said. "These are starting points. As opportunities present themselves, we can address them and try to take advantage of them."

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

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