EDP looks down barrel

Commissioner to examine EDP's future

— One county commissioner is concerned about the future of the Craig Economic Development Partnership, and he wants to have a meeting in the next few weeks to explore whether or not the group is worth funding.

Commissioner Saed Tayyara helped found the EDP in 1985, but since then has been disappointed with the lack of results, he said.

"People ask me, 'Haven't we spent enough money since 1985,'" Tayyara said. "In my conscience I need to provide an answer to the public. I am not ready or willing to make a foolish decision."

Tayyara worries the county will be pressured into funding the EDP if the Craig City Council green lights the EDP's new mission statement, which is why he wants representatives from the city to be there, as well.

He does not want to be in a situation where one entity endorses the organization and then backs off when budgets are up for review in the fall, either.

"We all need to sit down and have an intelligent discussion all together," Tayyara said. "I don't want to guess anymore, and I don't want to be too sympathetic or too positive."

The commissioner is looking for three specific answers, he said, and the absence of a qualified director is no longer just an issue. It's an underlying problem Tayyara doesn't expect to be fixed easily.

"There has been a training drought for the directors," he said. "I can't find any proof of consistent return for the money invested in that position. I want to know if we're not going to get anywhere, because history shows that we haven't gotten anywhere."

EDP has been without a director since Tim Gibbs resigned in April. Without a director, which is the organization's only paid position, EDP has not been able to pursue projects and has not wanted to collect member dues, which puts them at a stand-still, said Scott Cook, EDP Board of Directors chairman.

The EDP recently crafted a new mission statement and a job description for a permanent, paid director position.

The EDP Board of Directors wants a full-time director capable of establishing relationships at the local and state level, as well as around the country. An attractive salary would bring in an executive director willing to travel to make contacts, a task the board feels it cannot do on its own since board members also run their businesses locally.

New mission plans were first presented July 26 by Cook at a joint meeting among heads of the Moffat County Tourism Association and the Craig Chamber of Commerce held at the Colorado Northwestern Community College Craig campus.

The three organizations held a second joint meeting Thursday at the college, where MCTA Executive Director Shelly Flannery, Chamber Executive Director Christina Currie and Chamber Board of Directors President Gene Bilodeau agreed to provide the EDP with support when a meeting between it and local government takes place.

"As president of the Chamber, I support (EDP's) mission totally because what the EDP does is truly different from what the Chamber does," Bilodeau said. "Right now, because of where the EDP is, it needs the continued support of the city and county."

Cook said he realizes Craig does not seem to need an economic development program at the moment but cautions against waiting until the need is obvious.

"We're more in for the long term than the short term," he said. "You don't do economic development when a city is growing, you do it when businesses are failing and houses are foreclosing. But you can't just start when that happens. You can't harvest a garden in September if you didn't plant it in March."

Cook can also see Tayyara's point-of-view, but doesn't think setbacks in the past should preclude the EDP from moving forward.

"I wish we could guarantee everybody that in the next three years we would bring in a business that hires 50 new employees, but we can't do that," Cook said. "At the same time, nobody ever hit a homerun without stepping up to the plate."

The EDP hired Scott Ford, who runs its business mentoring SCORE program, as an interim director.

Ford plans to hold the position for 120 days, until after the EDP knows how it will be funded in the next budget cycle. His duties are to do some bookkeeping, fine tune future plans and work the board to create a responsible, feasible plan of action, Cook said.

Ford will also help with a project to target tourists during the hunting season. Cook hopes to create a lifestyle pitch backed up by attractive financial reasons to entice tourists to relocate their businesses and their families.

The EDP can survive without government funding, but its mission would be much less bold.

"Our goals would be completely different," he explained. "If we went to a volunteer board and an unpaid or part-time director, we would have to concentrate our energy and resources on local things. None of us would have the time to make contacts at the state level or to go visit out of state companies, say in California or Texas, that want to relocate here."

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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