EDP discusses Moffat County economic plan

Officials emphasize ‘unusual suspects’ of local economy

Chris Jones, a board member for the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership, shared Tuesday responses to the organization’s economic development plan at a public meeting.

He compared the variety of responses to a crime drama.

“When we got the responses back, there was a lot of commonality,” Jones said. “I said ‘those are the usual suspects, those are who the cops think did it.’”

But on the other side of the coin, were what Jones called the “unusual suspects.”

“The things we might not realize but need to pay attention to because unlike the movie, where it was fictional, here in Craig these things do carry some weight,” he said.

The meeting was hosted in the Craig City Council chambers and allowed the EDP to review the economic plan with the public, as well as receive further input on the plan.

About 40 people attended, including several Moffat County commissioners and city council members. Drafts of EDP’s county economic plan were available for the public and EDP executive director Darcy Owens-Trask gave a presentation on it before Jones spoke.

There was also time for the public to comment on the plan and feedback received was mostly in agreement with what EDP presented.

The “suspects” named by Jones came from 15 responses to a survey the EDP sent out prior to the meeting. At the meeting he talked about the top economic strengths and weaknesses of Moffat County, as well as the top economic threats to the county.

Strengths identified in the input were natural resources, quality of life, tourism and the Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

The “unusual suspects” included Colorado Northwestern Community College and the county’s room for growth and improvement. Jones said that the latter wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

“(Room for growth) is one of those unusual suspects that we can’t ignore,” Jones said. “We have bad things that we need to correct and that offers the area for improvement.”

For economic weaknesses, Jones said the feedback showed a key problem is a heavy reliance on several main industries and a need to diversify the local economy.

A lack of a unified economic development strategy amongst the entire community stood out to Jones.

“This is something we need to instill in this community and it’s between the city, the county, the EDP, the (Craig) Chamber (of Commerce), the (Moffat County Tourism Association), all of the business organizations, all of the government organizations and all of the businesses should have a vision of where this county’s going,” he said.

“Hopefully by doing this public forum and getting a plan that everyone buys into, we can generate that enthusiasm, motivation and buy-in.”

Economic threats included legislative action on natural resources and concerns over the local school district.

Owens-Trask was pleased with the feedback received on the plan.

“I felt like it went very smoothly and that, generally speaking, what is in our plan, is what the community would want to be in the plan,” Owens-Trask said.

The county’s plan will be approved at the EDP’s meeting March 16, but a draft will be used in meetings March 9 and 16 to help develop a larger regional plan.

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