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Which came first -- Craig's economic development or the 16 different groups meant to represent it?

This editorial board can't seem to stop asking ourselves this. We only wonder why the members of the 16 groups don't do the same.

Of course, there are not 16 groups dedicated to Craig's prosperity, but with a handful of organizations acting independently of the other, and each with their own agenda, there might as well be.

We've got the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership, Downtown Business Association, Moffat County Tourism Association and Craig Chamber of Commerce. They all have fancy titles implying big actions.

But, we wonder, just what is behind a title anymore?

Ask someone on the street what MCTA does and he probably wouldn't be able to tell you. We can't either.

The board says it encourages its director to promote Craig to out-of-town visitors. That's great. Those are the people we hope to someday call tourists.

What they don't do is continue selling Craig and its businesses to people who already visit the area. They argue that those people are already coming to Craig, already spending their money here.

But, without a little courting now and again, what keeps them from driving down the road to someplace else -- Meeker, Steamboat Springs, etc.?

We'd like to see our tourism association show interest in local tourists.

Meanwhile, the Chamber is running the Moffat County Visitor's Center, something we feel should fall under the tourism umbrella. But the MCTA board has decided otherwise.

We bet a person on the street couldn't identify the actual happenings of the EDP either. Neither can this editorial board.

People want results. And, true, with an agency such as EDP, proof of progress is hard to show. But wouldn't it be nice to finally put the EDP name behind a new business it recruited to town?

We understand that's something these agencies struggle with. Their leaders want to appease local business owners, but are in the Catch-22 of also bringing in new businesses -- businesses that may compete with existing stores and restaurants in Moffat County -- for economic growth.

We feel strongly that business owners opposed to a new kid on the block that may offer similar services need to be open to change. Most of all, they need to be warm to the idea of competition.

Currently, so-called "competing" businesses seem to work well together. If one store does not have an item, another store does. And referrals gain the customers' trust, encourage them to return to the business, and keep dollars local.

Plus, competition promotes improvement through customer service -- a common gripe about area businesses is poor customer service skills -- and renovating outdated or shabby buildings.

Most importantly, competition promotes the economy and is good for the local consumer.

We hope business owners can see that, in the long run, new businesses mean the local economy is growing, meaning better prosperity for our community.

Economic growth should be paramount, the concern above all concerns for our business community, and the assorted organizations that serve them.

But to get there, we need to form a united front. A front, mind you, that exists only tenuously at best right now.

A year-and-a-half ago, these organizations sat down together to define the roles each agency would play and how those missions would be executed. We think this was an excellent idea in theory, but poorly executed in practice.

The goal behind that meeting -- unifying the economic development cause to avoid overlap -- appears to have fallen by the wayside. It seems we're back to a situation of disagreement and personality clashes.

Recently, the Chamber and MCTA were disagreeing over funds MCTA once paid the Chamber for their office space and to run the Visitor's Center. But when MCTA moves to the Museum of Northwest Colorado, it's taking much of its money with it.

So the Chamber is left to greet hunters, provide information and cater to tourists, something its employees and volunteers do well. But they are also left to struggle with a decreased budget.

We'd like to see even more groups accomplishing goals that the Chamber does. But with four groups, each splintered off in its own direction and trying to reach its own goal, not much is getting accomplished.

We think the boards of these agencies need to go back to the roundtable to reach a conclusion about how they're all going to operate in this area.

Better yet, we say go to the roundtable and perhaps decide how to operate under one name, one director and one roof. We're not sure that's the solution, but it's an idea.

The Chamber has proven itself as a successful organization, and its efforts continue to grow.

Why not capitalize on that -- and on our growing business economy -- and join forces to make Craig the best it can be economically?

We know we'd have an active organization that can prove its worth, and we could find a director who could handle a budget and promote Craig in all the ways the Chamber already does, only with more resources.

For a change, let's start doing what's best for ourselves and our economy.

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