EDP grant denied

USDA Rural Development awards no funds to state

Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership officials received word Monday morning that its grant application for a local economic gardening program was denied.

In March, the group applied to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Enterprise Program for $47,700 - which it would match with $20,000 of its own - to create and hire staff for a new program to strengthen local businesses.

The crux of the venture would be to provide mentoring and logistical support to local entrepreneurs and business owners to either create a new business or expand an existing one.

EDP director Darcy Trask said the organization was "tremendously disappointed" by the news, particularly because it expected a large influx of recovery funds to free up cash and increase the chances of an award.

In total, the government approved $15.3 million in grants for 145 projects, including some in U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico and Guam.

Colorado received no funds, however. Five other states also came up empty-handed.

Trask said USDA did not provide specific details as to why EDP's grant application and others in Colorado were denied.

She guessed Moffat County didn't score well because of its relatively low unemployment and higher average wages.

As of June 2009, Moffat County had a 6.8 percent unemployment rate, compared to 7.6 percent for the state and 9.5 percent for the country.

The economic gardening grant will now go to state USDA offices for consideration next year, with a decision possible by the first quarter of 2009.

EDP's three other grant application's for business feasibility studies - one for a business incubator for the group and two others for private ventures - also will go to the state USDA office.

Trask said the group plans to weigh its options and decide how to proceed at its next board meeting at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 20 at a location to be determined.

She added EDP will look at how to fund a gardening program with the budget it has.

"We feel like that might be the best way for us to help the local economy and create jobs at this point," Trask said.

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