EDP looks to return to business before hiring director

— As the deadline for an economic development specialist nears, the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership is warming up its engine in time for winter.

"I think we've gotten a lot more focused in the last five or six years," EDP Board of Directors chairman Scott Cook said. "I think we've unified a bit and gotten to think it's the board that will make this thing work or not work" instead of a director.

The EDP board wants to get back to business and start collecting 2007 member dues before the end of the year. The board suspended collection after director Tim Gibbs resigned in April.

Cook acknowledged businesses might be weary to pay for a year when EDP activities were frozen for several months after Gibbs resigned. He wants businesses to see the money as an investment in the organization's future.

"I hope the local businesses and the membership believe in what we're doing," Cook said. "I hope going forward, we'll have a much better picture of what we're doing to show people, instead of a 'trust me' kind of thing."

The board plans to evaluate applicants for its open director position soon.

Advertisements began running locally and on the Colorado Office of Economic Development Web site for an "economic development specialist" about two weeks ago, Cook said. The ads state the deadline for applications is Friday.

The ad calls for a specialist instead of a director to enhance local interest and also to "tone down some of the expectations" for a director to come in and make the EDP successful, interim director Scott Ford said.

So far, there have been calls from local residents, but none from a candidate with economic development experience, Cook said.

There has not been any response from the state economic development Web site that Cook recalled. EDP board members hoped to get responses through that listing from candidates who were non-local but had some experience.

Board members are not upset that locals are the only ones to show interest in the position, Cook said.

Whether the eventual hire is local but inexperienced, or has experience but hails from outside the area, he or she will have to go through some training, Cook said.

"The people I've talked to are probably qualified to (accept the position), but the obvious downside is they don't have any experience," he said. "If we bring someone from outside the area, we'll have to teach them about Northwest Colorado.

"Someone locally could probably sell the town and what we offer if they wanted to."

Which is where Ford comes in, Cook said. Ford, with his unique position as a local economic developer, can shorten the learning curve for either kind of candidate by nine months, he added.

Should the EDP not find a suitable candidate, it won't give up on finding a director or hire someone as a Band-Aid.

"Ideally we won't (extend the hiring process), but if we don't get anyone qualified, then we'll have to," Cook said. "We're going to do whatever it takes to get the person in here."

Cook wants to encourage more interested local residents to apply, he said.

"They may be more qualified than they think they are," he added.

People interested in learning more about the economic specialist position, or businesses interested in becoming EDP members, can contact Scott Cook at Cook Chevrolet, 824-2100.

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