EDP interviews business owners

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During a recent tour of interviews with business owners, Darcy Trask said she was reminded why Moffat County holds so much promise.

Trask, Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership executive specialist, is near finishing a set of scheduled interviews for the Listen 2 Business segment of the Mesa State College regional economic study, "The Socioeconomic Impacts of Growth," commissioned by the El Pomar Foundation.

She sat down for one-on-one interviews with local business owners the past two weeks to discuss their perception of the local economy and business climate.

Trask said the juxtaposition of new commercial ventures in the city with the industries of Moffat County's history made her take a step back and appreciate the area's diverse possibilities.

"We have both those ends of the spectrum," she said. "That's what the community is here. It's why I love to be here."

For her interviews, Trask said she sat down with nearly every type of business in Moffat County, from the new to the old, to the small and the big, to representatives from all the various industries - energy, construction, service, retail and others.

The information will help the area understand its economic strengths and weaknesses, as well as inform the EDP, Trask said.

"The better we understand our existing businesses, the better we know how to attract businesses to the area and compliment our existing business community," she said.

Each business owner filled out a common survey form in addition to the interview. Mesa State officials will compile the data in preparation for local-specific and regional reports at the socioeconomic study's final presentation June 13 in Grand Junction.

Business owners were told their responses would be kept confidential, Trask said. Collectively, however, she felt their responses shared a lot.

Taken together, business owners said the area's strongest economic asset was its quality of life.

"Most of the people we interviewed own or manage a fairly successful business," Trask said. "Many of these people could live anywhere and probably own businesses in other communities if they wanted to, but they're happy to be here."

For most, their sense of community went beyond traditional business sense.

"I've had more than one say their greatest achievement is their community involvement and the involvement of their employees," Trask said.

Owners also were generally happy with Craig Police Department, Craig Fire/Rescue and The Memorial Hospital emergency services, staff and officials.

Responses were split about whether local government assists business development. Trask said some thought government helped businesses do well, and others saw it as mostly a hindrance.

She said she couldn't say accurately how the responses related to different city and county building codes or other policies until the data had been analyzed by Mesa State.

Owners reported other barriers to business, as well, Trask said.

About 75 percent of business owners counted unreliable cell phone service as a constant problem, she said. EDP and the community should see if they could possibly address that in the future.

The limited workforce pool is also an issue, Trask said. Businesses are spending more money to attract employees and more to keep them once they've been there.

Feelings about state and national politics generally were more disapproving than with local officials.

"People were not negative, but nearly every business was able to identify specific legislation they felt would increase costs to their business," she said. "It was really interesting how diverse the businesses were that felt that way."

Among their chief complaints about state and federal legislation was the absence of legalized immigration reform, Trask said, which could help their workforce problems.

All together, Trask said the experience helped her organization.

"It got me out into the community," Trask said, "and I probably need to do more of that."

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