Craig City Council reconsiders business incentives

County perspective

While the city is rethinking its assumptions, Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said he also is open to considering opportunities that would benefit the community, though he previously had opposed government incentives.

As for the particular business presented to the Craig City Council, Gray said he wanted to learn more about what the company would bring to Moffat County before he commented.

In general, though, he said he would support some incentives for a well-paying business that doesn't compete with existing companies. However, he would be "very skeptical" about offering county tax dollars.

The Craig City Council has changed its mind about government incentives for private industry.

At their Tuesday meeting, councilors said that although they once thought government incentives were unfair, they now think incentives to draw in well-paying jobs are good for the community.

"Just like everything else in my life, I've learned as I went along, gee, maybe I'm wrong," said Councilor Bill Johnston, who described himself as a "staunch" opponent of government incentives for private industry.

But, Craig has an opportunity now that it hasn't before, he added.

His and other statements from councilors came after a presentation by Darcy Trask, Craig/Moffat Economic Development director. She told the council that an Austrian home building company is seeking to build a plant in Colorado and that Craig is one of the places under consideration.

Trask requested the council consider leasing a portion of the 17 acres it owns on First Street for as little as $1 a year, as well as possibly providing other services, such as site development, for free. Private investors would be asked to fund a new building for the company.

The manufacturing business - its name has been withheld for confidentiality - estimates it would hire 50 people its first year, and as many as 150 by its third. Wages would range from $50,000 for assembly workers to $300,000 for senior management.

Mayor Don Jones said he has wanted EDP to find an opportunity like this for some time, and other councilors agreed.

"That's a mini-coal mine, a mini-power plant," Jones said. "That's the best thing for the whole community."

The crux of the deal, however, is that the company expects some help, Trask said, and several other communities across the state are willing to offer that. Craig essentially is in a competition, and it's up to the community and its elected officials to decide what's best for the area.

Incentives will be practically necessary to lure this business or other primary job employers, said Trask and other EDP members. The city can place requirements on any deal it makes that would keep the business in Craig and require it to hold a certain number of employees or face penalties.

Trask also cautioned incentives would put Craig in the game but that they won't guarantee results.

Still, Johnston said, it might be time for the city to fully embrace economic development, and not remain a "dabbler."

"I think we are about to reach a crossroads here," he said. "I think it's finally time to actually discuss incentives."

EDP board president Scott Cook addressed concerns that local businesses would see the process as unfair because they did not get government help.

"A rising tide raises all ships," he said. "If we get some more primary jobs in here, it will help all those businesses."

Primary businesses are defined as those that bring outside money into the community, as opposed to a restaurant, for example, which circulates money within a community. A primary job business would generate more tax revenue as well as provide jobs that offer disposable income to be spent at local businesses, Trask said.

Councilor Joe Herod said he has seen change in recent years, and he thinks the city is ready for growth.

"Six years ago, I'd have sat here with six of you guys and said it's not fair, it's not fair, it's not fair," he said. "In the last two years, this city has done some things - with the new hospital and the new school - that I'd never have thought the whole community would jump on.

"I'm for it."

The city does not need voter approval to sell or lease the land, as the community allowed it to put the land asset in the general fund when it approved money for the Public Safety Center.

The council did not vote on what it would do, but it did agree to begin making commitments as soon as its next meeting, Nov. 25.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

Comments

taxslave 5 years, 8 months ago

50K for assembly workers? Yeah, and I gotta bridge for sale. AND, they're withholding the name of the company.....how DC of them.

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taxslave 5 years, 8 months ago

Seriously....

What exactly will they be building? What chemicals and waste will it produce? What amount of water is needed to produce said product?. What amount of waste will be produced for the land fill?

If it has anything to do with the Housing Industry as we know it, it's already a failure.

If however, they'll be building portable, affordable, emergency housing, (blow-up tents made from same material as kids bouncers at carnivals), then they're on to something.

The 50K/yr is possible....if they're working 4,000/hrs/yr.

The newest fad is "part-time, no benefit employees".

"Believe me, politicians aren't that smart".....Ron Paul.

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50cal 5 years, 8 months ago

Tax, if we build a rec center the business will flood into town

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Ray Cartwright 5 years, 8 months ago

Don't we need to spend some money, or alot of money ($20,000) to do a study, maybe some firm in Denver needs some business?

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cmedpdirector 5 years, 8 months ago

Thank you for your comments about this important topic. Some of the concerns you have identified are fair issues for us to be worried about as a community if we are considering incentives. Concerns like:

Are the jobs really high paying and are they sustainable? How much impact does the current economy have on the particular business that we are looking at? Is their business compatible with the community and what if any concerns do they bring with them?

Those are the very considerations that economic development groups and government officials must weigh in these types of situations.

If you are interested in participating in the process of looking at this issue, there are several options for you:

  1. Contact me and I'll be happy to share information from the presentation I gave to City Council with you and I think it will allay many of your concerns. Email at director@cmedp.com or call 826-2039 and I'll be happy to meet with you.
  2. Attend the Moffat County Commissioners meeting next Tuesday at 11:15 where the presentation will be shared with the commissioners. Attend a CMEDP Board Meeting Our next meeting will include an Update on the Moffat County and Yampa Valley Regional Airports and is at the Craig Holiday Inn from 11:30-1:00p.
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Ray Cartwright 5 years, 8 months ago

yeah, lets have more meetings that concern the public in the middle of the week when the general public is out working their regular jobs and can't get away to comment. Oh I forget, heaven forbid that the Commissioners and the CMEDP board might have to make themselves available in the evening and take up their precious private times.

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cmedpdirector 5 years, 8 months ago

dentedfender: Thanks. As you indicated, daytime meetings can be difficult to attend. I would be happy to talk with you in the evening and/or I'm sure the City Council will be taking public comment on this at their meeting 11/25/08. Those meetings are in the evening (7:30 start time) and might be more convenient for you.

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