Tim Gibbs is optimistic about the business climate in Craig.
And as director of the Craig/Moffat County Economic Dev--elopment Partnership, it's his job to have his finger on the pulse of the local economy.
Business development and economic growth were primary topics of discussion during Tuesday's partnership meeting at the Holiday Inn. Community leaders and bankers attended the meeting and answered questions from small business owners.
Support for Gibbs' optimism about Craig's economic viability is seen in business from Steamboat Springs. Also, he said, gas and oil exploration in Northwest Colorado already is funneling money into the local economy.
The Economic Development Partnership is working to make low-interest loans, up to $5,000, available to local businesses as a way to boost the economy.
"We want to be a robust community," Gibbs said. "We hope to balance training and education so that the local work force will help recruit businesses to Craig."
As an example, Gibbs cited new and existing programs at Colorado Northwestern Community College to supply the power plant and aviation industries with a trained work force.
Like Craig, the Yampa Valley also has potential for economic growth, said Dave Fleming, president of Moffat County National Bank.
"I'm personally optimistic about the area here," Fleming said. "There's a lot of opportunity out there. We have a lot to offer."
Fleming noted that two start-up businesses are in negotiations with the bank and that many people are inquiring about building their businesses into larger operations.
"It's a big commitment, and not everyone is prepared," Fleming said about starting a business. "It takes two years for people to know you're out there. There are a lot of challenges."
The hard reality of starting a small business is clear to Bank of Colorado's Vice President John Gray.
"Some die in the first year, some in the second year," Gray said. "Some are a success. We have seen reasonably steady growth financing businesses. We're looking at the local area with optimism."
Gray says he is seeing movement in the service industry and in specialty retail shops. He said he thinks the possibility of Wal-Mart coming to Craig will not hurt most downtown businesses.
"I defy you to find a store on Yampa Avenue that has 25 percent of their inventory in something that Wal-Mart or Kmart sells," Gray said. "Look at The Kitchen Shop, or Neolithics, or KS Kreations. They don't cover that stuff at Wal-Mart."
Ken Peet, a plumber with Moffat County School District, attended the business meeting hoping for input about starting a plumbing business in Craig. He had questions about tax breaks for new businesses.
"Nobody minds a second income," Peet said. "If I buy tools and equipment, I want to know about what is tax deductible."
The Economic Development Partnership has about 40 members and is recruiting businesses to locate in Craig.