Rick Hill, owner and developer with Mars Development, said he expects the Candlewood Suites at First Street and Colorado Highway 13 to open by early- to mid-November. Hill said he is encouraged about Craig's economic future, despite the lack of recent visible growth.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Rick Hill, owner and developer with Mars Development, said he expects the Candlewood Suites at First Street and Colorado Highway 13 to open by early- to mid-November. Hill said he is encouraged about Craig's economic future, despite the lack of recent visible growth.

Regional developer encouraged by Craig's possibilities

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Although there was a lack of visible growth in Moffat County during the past year, Rick Hill said he is not nervous.

Not nervous about his new Mars Development venture, a Candlewood Suites extended-stay hotel, and not nervous about Craig slipping into a bust before a boom was ever fully realized.

But growth doesn't come without a place to stay, Hill said.

"This town will continue to grow," he said. "The problem with growth, it can't grow without places to come into. You have no houses, no apartments. When a man comes into Craig looking for work and goes, 'Well, I can't find an apartment,' where do you think he goes? He goes back home. He doesn't move here."

Craig is off-center from the bigger developments in the region, Hill said, and so shouldn't expect to become a metropolis anytime soon. But it is in the middle of those larger projects.

One such project is 336 apartment units Hill said he is developing in Gillette, Wyo.

"As fast as I can get those done, we're renting them," he said. "There's a waiting list for people that want to rent them."

Companies are trying to bring more and more workers into the area, as well, and competing with one another and communities for rooms, Hill said.

A Holiday Inn Express in Silt, near Rifle, recently signed a contract with a drilling rig company that rented every room in the hotel for two years so the business would have a place to keep its workers.

No company has called Hill to rent all of Candlewood's rooms, but he said he wouldn't mind if they did.

Hill said he built the Candlewood because it is ideal for temporary workers, such as those employed by energy companies who move from spot to spot drilling wells.

Each room is designed for extended-stay guests, those such as temporary workers and hunters who want to stay for more than a few nights.

"Hotels are good to a certain point," he said. "Eventually, (workers) want somewhere nice to live. Here, we have everything they would find in an apartment. There's a full kitchen, a living room, a bedroom and a bathroom."

Living space is part of the puzzle, Hill said. As areas around Craig develop into heavier industrial cities and towns, Craig is apt to become more of a service industry destination for people looking to eat and shop.

Hill said it would be hard to pinpoint exactly what developments Craig would need to kick-start a growth spurt. A nice restaurant would be a good place to start, though.

"You guys are getting there," Hill said. "Who knows what will happen, really. But, you have to remember, people don't want to risk their cash. It may be a case where (developers) are waiting for someone to take the plunge first."

Construction at Candlewood is nearing the end, Hill said. He plans to open the hotel by early-to-mid-November.

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