Branding not just for livestock anymore

Northwest Colorado Products brand to market locally-made goods in region and abroad

— Neolithics owner Carol Wilson doesn't have many locally-produced goods in her store, other than the jewelry she makes herself.

But, that isn't on purpose.

Wilson doesn't know of many locals who want to market their wares to retailers.

"I know of a few people around Craig that make jewelry and stuff," Wilson said, "but I don't think they want to make a big thing out of it."

The Community Agriculture Alliance, based in Routt County, wants to change that.

Like Yampa Valley ranchers making their mark on livestock, the Agriculture Alliance wants to create a symbol that marks a product as being from Northwest Colorado.

Since November 2004, the group has researched the possibility of a Northwest Colorado Products brand, which could be affixed to any product made locally, and in any store or restaurant that sold local products.

Yampa Valley Partners, a non-profit organization aimed at developing "healthy communities" in the region, came up with the idea.

The Agriculture Alliance wants to create a database of local producers and retailers. That would make store owners such as Wilson aware of local products, and producers aware of Wilson's store.

Wilson said that would be a great idea.

The database also would help residents market their goods. They could sell jewelry to Wilson, or produce to grocery stores, or wine to restaurants.

By keeping the process local and small at first, it helps introduce residents to the business world, and helps foster a culture of entrepreneurship.

Scott Ford, Craig/Moffat County Economic Developzment Partnership interim director and Yampa Valley SCORE volunteer, thinks that's a good thing.

EDP and SCORE would help along the way, Ford said. EDP probably would provide technical support, such as helping to secure loans, and SCORE would provide business training in marketing and accounting.

Ford sees the campaign moving forward in phases, most likely starting with retail products and possibly moving into agriculture, which Ford said is a more complex industry.

Local entrepreneurs and the market will dictate what products are involved and where they are sold, he added.

"This will help create a very strong community identity," Ford said. "And it's kind of part of the whole Western ethic that we value. The fact that it's here certainly creates an ambiance folks can capitalize on."

That ambiance will market the products, Ford said.

"When you can't compete on price, you have to compete on story," he said. "People want to say these things have some specialness to them."

The story can market the products to residents and tourists, and outside the area, as well.

"People really like it here," Ford said. "They think by buying our products, they take a little of us away with them."

Recently, Northwest Colorado Products was accepted as a masters project for four graduate students with the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. The students are creating assessments of similar projects nationwide, a business plan, a feasibility study and the local database.

The students have visited and toured Steamboat Springs and Craig twice, and communicate with the Agriculture Alliance at least once each week by telephone.

"They (the students) seem to have a real grasp of the area and how to market it," Agriculture Alliance Executive Director Marie Daughenbaugh said.

Daughenbaugh thinks the program will benefit the area.

"I think there's more products out there than we realize," she said. "People are pretty creative, now it's just a matter of getting the word out."

The Agriculture Alliance has printed stickers and banners with the Northwest Colorado Products logo but plans to wait until it sees the UD students' reports before moving forward.

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

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