EDP eyeing enterprise zone legislation

New location ...

On March 12, the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership moved out of its office in the basement of Craig City Hall and into its new location at Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Bell Tower.

“I have to thank Mayor (Terry) Carwile, Ray Beck and Steve Strickler for helping with the move,” EDP Director Betsy Nauman Cook said. “We got the whole move done in less than 90 minutes.”

Cook said unpacking is taking a bit longer, but the office is open for new business counseling.

The Bell Tower is also the future home of the Marianna Raftopoulos Business Incubator/One Stop Business Center, scheduled to open sometime this spring.

A grand opening event is also expected to take place in coming weeks.

“It’s going to be a busy spring for the EDP,” Cook said.

The organization’s updated contact info is below:

Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership

50 College Dr.

P.O. Box 1232

Craig, CO 81626

970-620-4370 (office)

970-531-1205 (cell)

betsy@cmedp.com

www.cmedp.com

Quotable

“This is the biggest thing I have to offer to businesses thinking about coming into Colorado. There’s something like 11 different tax credits we can offer businesses, which could play a significant role in whether a large business decides to come here or not.”

— Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership Director Betsy Nauman Cook

In 1986, the state legislature passed the Urban and Rural Enterprise Zone Act to address economic distress affecting numerous communities throughout the state.

The bill allowed areas with low population density, high unemployment rates and slow population growth to create enterprise zones that would be able to extend certain tax credits to businesses looking to move or expand in Colorado.

Moffat, Routt, Jackson, Grand, Clear Creek, Rio Blanco and Garfield counties encompass one of those districts known as the Northwest Colorado Enterprise Zone.

But before Colorado legislators convened in January, local elected officials and economic development specialists discovered three proposed bills that could amend enterprise zone designation or terminate them altogether.

So far, House Bills 12-1251 and 12-1260 have already been defeated, but a third bill introduced Feb. 7 has been laid over to allow legislators to rewrite it.

According to legislation passed in 1986, areas applying for enterprise zone designation could not be composed of a population exceeding 150,000 people.

In its most current form, HB 12-1241 adds the criteria that in order for existing enterprise zones to remain, they must also be stricken with an unemployment rate 25 percent higher than the state average.

“That’s a point that has been contentious and will probably continue to be contentious because it’s not fair,” Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership Director Betsy Nauman Cook said. “I don’t think Moffat County’s unemployment rate has ever been that high because we have a very strong energy sector.

“That’s one of the points we’re going to have to battle and something I am prepared to fight.”

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Colorado’s unemployment rate for January, the most recent month for data, was 7.8 percent.

According to county statistics released by the agency in December 2011, all seven counties of the Northwest Colorado Enterprise Zone reported unemployment numbers lower than the state average.

But Cook doesn’t believe the region should be penalized for having low unemployment numbers, particularly with the unknown future of the energy industry since the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act.

“What happens if we suddenly have a drop dead date, and we don’t have any more coal, the mines discontinue operations, and Tri-State closes its doors?” Cook said. “What are we going to use to recruit? This enterprise zone program is a tool from the state for us to do that.”

If HB 12-1241 passed tomorrow, the entire region would lose its ability to offer tax credits to new potential businesses, Cook said.

“This is the biggest thing I have to offer to businesses thinking about coming into Colorado,” she said. “There’s something like 11 different tax credits we can offer businesses, which could play a significant role in whether a large business decides to come here or not.”

In addition to meeting unemployment criteria, HB 12-1241 also calls for the creation of a 15-member Enterprise Zone Review Task Force to examine enterprise zones every five years.

On Monday, Cook found out she was tapped to represent Northwest Colorado on the HB 12-1241 task force, which she believes is a precursor to the Enterprise Zone Review Task Force should the legislation pass the House and Senate.

Cook said she is going to use the opportunity to get some answers.

“The program brings in money, it’s not as funded by the state as a lot of other programs and the administrative costs come out of the revenues generated by the program,” Cook said. “It’s not an extra tax burden, so why they’re going after this program is what I want someone to explain to me.

“There’s not enough tax money spent on the program to think that the (state) is going to recoup all of this revenue.”

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