A backhoe sits Thursday on the future site of the Tebo Center east of Walmart Supercenter as a crew broke ground on the facility this week. The 10,477-square-foot retail space is one of several new business developments on Craig’s economic horizon.

Photo by Bridget Manley

A backhoe sits Thursday on the future site of the Tebo Center east of Walmart Supercenter as a crew broke ground on the facility this week. The 10,477-square-foot retail space is one of several new business developments on Craig’s economic horizon.

Business developments give officials cause to believe better economic days are ahead

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The suite pictured here is one of several up for lease at Centennial Mall. Eric Tegl, the mall’s leasing and property manager, hopes to bring more tenants into the building, including national chain stores and start-up businesses. “There’s definitely a renewed interest in improving the property … and making it a more viable property in the community,” he said.

Quotable

“(The) overview is a lot of people feel like they are beginning to come out of the recession even though they’re not seeing huge impacts to their businesses or huge gains.”

— Betsy Cook, Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership director, on the possible future of the Craig economy.

From market to storefront

Before entrepreneurs take the plunge into full-fledged business ownership, Susan Domer believes they could develop their skills in a more casual venue.

The Farmer’s Market, an annual summer event in downtown Craig, may be just the place to get their feet wet, said Domer, who helps run the market.

The market is a “great marketing tool for someone starting up a small ‘cottage’” business, she said.

Domer’s vision is to expand the event to include bakers and artisans like potters, carvers, painters and quilters.

A meeting about the Farmer’s Market will take place at 5 p.m. Thursday at Downtown Books, 543 Yampa Ave.

Anyone interested is welcome to attend.

The winter months are usually not prime for construction or economic development.

This winter, though, defies the norm.

Dave Costa, City of Craig planning and community development director, approved and issued Wednesday foundation permits to Boulder-based Tebo Development for the construction of Tebo Center.

The company broke ground on the 10,477-square-foot retail structure Thursday.

The arrival of the Tebo Center is among several developments on the horizon that give local officials reason to be positive about the state of the Craig and Moffat County economy.

“This is not the time of year when there are a lot of things going on,” Costa said. “Give it a couple of months and then we’ll really see some plans start coming together. Any growth news is good news.”

Building, expanding

Tebo Center is slated for Lot 6 on the east side of the Walmart Subdivision at 1830 W. Victory Way. It’s divided into three spaces, two of which will be occupied by Maurices, a women’s clothing store, and Birmingham, Ala.-based Hibbett Sports.

Costa said Tebo Development intends to construct the building in phases and is on schedule to open in June.

Also in Costa’s hopper is a variance request by Subway to increase the size of its restaurant to expand the TCBY yogurt operation.

In addition, Costa said he will present a site plan to the city planning and zoning commission Feb. 20 on behalf of Drs. Ron Danner and Craig Eckroth for the construction of a 4,430-square-foot medical office at 418 Green St., south of Walgreens.

“I’ve already written a positive staff report for this project,” he said. “I’m recommending to the commission that we approve their site plan because it meets all of the minimum requirements. It’s going to be a nice facility.”

Costa said Danner and Eckroth, whose practice, Eyecare Specialties, is currently located in Centennial Mall, plan to break ground in early April.

The relocation of Maurices and Eyecare Specialties, along with The Memorial Hospital Rehabilitation Center’s expected move to TMH Medical Clinic this spring, will add more vacancies to the mall’s already empty suites.

Yet Eric Tegl, the mall’s leasing and property manager, doesn’t intend for them to be unoccupied long.

M&D’s Handmade Gifts and the Moffat County Tourism Association have filled two of the mall’s previously vacant slots in recent months, said Tegl, of Denver-based Western Centers, Inc.

Fastenal, currently located at 2549 W. First St., also will move to Centennial Mall, Tegl said.

Tegl was waiting on word Friday about whether a fourth tenant, a national company, would move into an 8,500-square-foot space in the mall.

He declined to name the company because the lease had yet to be signed.

“It’s at the final stages,” he said, “but that’s … where sometimes it falls apart.”

A new vision is at work at the mall, he said, one open to signing on small start-up businesses as well as national chains.

Across town, local entrepreneur Clint Gabbert also is taking advantage of what appears to be a favorable economic climate.

He’s planning to move The Jungle Pet Shop, the business he co-owns with his mother, Leona, to 29 W. Victory Way.

He expects to be in the new location by June, and it will give him about three times more space than his current shop at 565 Yampa Ave, he said.

His business has been “successful,” he said, which is why he’s looking to expand.

Danner and a Fastenal spokesperson could not be reached for comment Friday.

Advantages, challenges of growth

Costa isn’t the only one who’s heard rumblings of potential growth.

Christina Oxley, Craig Chamber of Commerce executive director, said she’s had conversations with companies that want to bring in auxiliary businesses to support the potentially booming energy industry.

Companies are paying attention to oil and natural gas activity in Moffat County, Oxley said, but are holding out because they are not seeing results yet in the local economy.

“I think Hibbett’s decision to come in and Maurices’ decision to move locations were influenced by some of that chatter,” Oxley said. “I know of some other businesses doing their research and positioning themselves to open here or move here once some of those economic results become a little more tangible.”

Where Oxley has been inundated with conversations from companies looking to move in, Betsy Cook, new director of the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership, said her first three weeks on the job have been spent counseling local residents interested in starting their own businesses.

“I have a lot of people coming in and they want it to be stealth and confidential,” Cook said. “Everyone has an idea for a business that is new to Craig with a focus on specialty hire and food stuff.”

But, where there are good business ideas, there are also costs.

“Consumer lending is still so tight,” Cook said. “Even with a great credit rating and collateral it is still very difficult to win a business loan.”

The reason behind the crunch, local bank president David Dempster said, goes all the way to the top.

Federal banking regulations have stiffened and banks are allowed to make fewer exceptions when issuing loans, said Dempster, Bank of Colorado branch president.

“They’re allowing less leeway, which means, yes, there’s the tightening,” he said.

Regardless of the lending environment, the consensus among officials is brighter days are ahead, even if more proof of that hope has yet to be seen.

“(The) overview is a lot of people feel like they are beginning to come out of the recession even though they’re not seeing huge impacts to their businesses or huge gains,” Cook said.

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