Photo by Bridget Manley

New EDP director: Diversification is key

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Betsy Nauman Cook, director of the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership, stands outside the future home of the One-Stop Business Incubator at Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Bell Tower. The incubator will be named after late county commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos.

It was a Thursday in late January when Betsy Nauman Cook received a phone call from Dave Fleming, chairman of Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership hiring committee.

A few days earlier, Cook powered through a second round of interviews with Fleming, and EDP members Scott Cook, Mike Anson and Gene Bilodeau.

She was competing against four other director candidates, a position vacated in November 2011 by Darcy Owens-Trask.

Cook was not feeling her best. In fact, she lost her voice before the interview was finished.

“I was so sick,” said Cook, a Steamboat Springs resident. “It was so bad that no one wanted to shake my hand after the interview.”

As the call from Fleming came in, the events of the second interview flashed in Cook’s mind. There was no way this could be good news, so she let the call go to voicemail.

Later in the day, Cook learned she had earned the director position and that her sickness had not counted against her.

“That happens all the time to people,” Fleming said. “The fact that she wasn’t feeling that well didn’t have any affect on the interview. It was the substance of what she said and her really good ideas of where to take EDP in the future (that stood out).”

Cook, a 44-year-old mother of four, was raised for the majority of her life on the go.

Her father worked in mine equipment sales and his job took him all over the country and the world.

Eventually, her family found a permanent home in Wyoming during one of the many coal and uranium booms of the 1980s.

“That’s one of the things I want to be very careful about here because people are really excited about all of the potential mineral development,” Cook said. “But I have seen how volatile the industry can be and it’s going to be my job to ensure we weather the busts by diversifying the employment base here in Moffat County.”

Cook first moved to Colorado in April 2006 to take a position as the Downtown Enhancement Director for the Town of Granby. This followed a June 2004 incident in which a disgruntled businessman used a 50-ton Komatsu bulldozer to level several buildings, including Granby’s town hall, the public library, a bank, concrete plant and numerous houses.

Cook was tasked with revitalizing Granby’s historic downtown through implementation of the national main street program and other economic development techniques including a business incubator.

Cook later moved from Granby to the Yampa Valley in August 2010. She built a clientele as an economic development consultant, in addition to serving as executive director of Routt County Riders and a grant writer for Old Town Hot Springs.

Despite a steady stream of businesses, Cook’s heart was set on leading a business incubator, and when the opportunity arose she put in as much time researching EDP as the organization had done of her.

“I always wanted to run an incubator,” Cook said. “I really wanted this position after I learned what an incredible reputation the EDP has in Craig, Moffat County and the rest of the valley.”

Bilodeau said he was not only struck with Cook’s experience, but the passion she showed for the position.

“During the interview she had a high energy level, and she has a knowledge base of business incubators that we thought would be very helpful,” Bilodeau said. “Her ideas were in sync with what our goals are for the business community of Craig.”

Bottom line, Cook said she is excited to put the incubator to work not only for budding entrepreneurs but for the entire community as well.

“My ultimate goal is to see the average income in Moffat County appreciate faster than the annual rate of inflation,” Cook said. “One of the ways we’ll get there is by increasing diversification in the job market.”

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