Survey indicates mixed results when supporting businesses

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A “Listening to Business” survey conducted by the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership indicates that Craig and Moffat County are largely positive business climates, despite some growth obstacles.

EDP director Darcy Trask said 19 businesses participated in the survey, which was conducted the first part of the year. Findings were released at the beginning of July.

Trask presented the results of the survey to the Moffat County Commission and Craig City Council at their respective meetings last week.

Trask said it was important to present the results to local governments because they are the “ground troops” that can make changes to make the community more attractive toward business.

“As they evaluate their decisions over the next however many years, it’s important for them to take into account what do we know about how this will impact the business community,” she said.

The survey sought to identify what various primary businesses considered community strengths and perceived barriers to growth, Trask said. EDP also sought to organize the feedback into a comprehensive and readable format, she added.

The study indicated many of the businesses that responded are either maintaining current levels or growing, because they are “working really hard,” and they are “getting creative” in tough economic times, Trask said.

“Overall, there was a pretty strong showing,” she said. “What we are seeing is that our companies are pretty resilient, but it is because they are either expanding their markets, expanding their product line — so they are making more sales per customer — or that they are improving their productivity.”

The survey asked companies about products they offer, local and state markets, industries in general, management, and the workforce of the businesses.

Businesses were also asked to rate community services, which were then compared to regional, state and national results of similar surveys.

Several community strengths were identified during the process of the survey, including location, quality of life and good community leadership, among others.

However, businesses identified several weaknesses in the community, including a lack of skilled workers, the cost of business being too high, and poor cell phone reception, among others.

According to the survey, many businesses found the location of Moffat County to be a strength despite indicating there was a higher cost of living.

“Given how rural and remote we are, what that is saying is that there is a strength here and they are willing to put up with a higher cost of doing business based on that reason,” Trask said. “That could be that natural resources are here, it could be that their customer base is here, it could be that their family was from here and that’s where they want to be.”

Another factor businesses indicated in the survey was a high quality of life in the county, Trask said.

“Some people, maybe they are there because the company they work for is related to energy in some way, but they love it because of the hunting and fishing,” she said. “Well, they could work a lot of other places, but they choose that particular location because of the quality of life.”

A high quality of life being indicated by businesses, however, is not uncommon in similar surveys in different locations, Trask said.

“The bottom is that if people didn’t like the quality of life, they would move,” she said.

A business indicating they feel the cost of doing business is higher than it should be, however, is not something unreasonable in a rural area, Trask said.

“I don’t think it is any surprise to anyone that it is more expensive to do business in a rural and remote area,” she said. “That said, a lot of people are willing to do (business here). But on the other hand it’s not that they don’t notice that it is more expensive.”

Several businesses participating in the survey also said there is not enough skilled and professional labor, Trask said.

“In times of unemployment of eight to 10 percent, that we still have that comment is an important message for us that we have companies that potentially could grow, or be more profitable, but they are still having trouble finding an exact skill set to match their needs,” she said.

Several businesses also pointed to cell phone reception in the survey as a potential barrier to business growth, Trask said.

“Cell phone service is a barrier for business,” she said. “It does things that make it hard for people to be in Craig and that is the real problem. We have to figure out how to partner with private industry to get rid of that problem.”

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