Out-of-town dollars

Construction projects, events attract tourists and their wallets

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As the Triple Crown baseball games come to Craig, many ballplayers and their families may have a difficult time finding lodging.

Summertime construction projects have run head-on into the tourist season and other events that should be a boost to the local economy. Proprietors of many city hotels said their buildings are nearly full with workers from the oil and gas industries doing exploration work, and laborers working on the Elkhead Reservoir expansion project.

That appears to be the case for visitors trying to stay at the Colorado Inn. On Friday, a "no-vacancy" sign on the locked front door greets visitors seeking a room.

At the Bear Valley Inn of Craig, Jolenne Freyling at the front desk said the oil and gas exploration workers have combined with the Elkhead Reservoir workers to keep the inn fairly full.

"It's a lot of contractors and construction workers," Freyling said. "The owners say they've been pretty busy."

A local economic development leader said the construction projects are limiting the financial impact that Triple Crown has on local businesses.

"The current impact (of Triple Crown) is being limited by our own success," said Tim Gibbs, director of Craig's Economic Development Partnership. "Motels are 80 to 90 percent filled, and that was before Triple Crown started."

Triple Crown draws an influx of out-of-town visitors to the area. Visitors, Gibbs pointed out, that are also buying food at local stores and restaurants.

"It's great for us and great for business," Gibbs said. "Most of the people that come to town for a sporting event also vacation while they're on the road."

But, construction projects are also good for business.

City of Craig finance director Bruce Nelson said summertime sales tax revenues have been going up. However, those sales tax receipts were climbing even faster when the pipeline workers were busy in late winter and early spring.

"In the month of May, city sales tax was up 4.72 percent over May last year," Nelson said. "The county saw an even higher increase in May at 9.51 percent."

Nelson said that work on the Craig Station power plant kept revenues up through the usually leaner months in winter, and then the economy finally started taking off.

Gary Baysinger, owner of Mountain Meat Packing and the Tin-Cup Grill, has been a business owner that's benefited from the out-of-town business. He said that business has been about the same at the meat plant, but not at the restaurant.

"The restaurant has definitely been busier than last year," Baysinger said. "It's a lot of locals and out-of-towners making business good. It's both golfers and non-golfers keeping us busy."

For Gibbs, the visitors to Craig are good for the economy. And, he said hopes they lead to bigger things.

"We would like these people to notice Craig and say to themselves, "Hey. This is a nice place. I didn't know this existed." He said.

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