Craig Community and business leaders in Moffat County are hopeful that Shell Oil’s impending departure from the region will not have a lasting negative effect on the local economy.
Shell’s announcement came just a couple of weeks ago, but county officials and Shell representatives already are making plans for the company’s pullout.
Carolyn Tucker, Shell’s Rocky Mountain Region spokeswoman, said the company is not going to abandon the community.
“It’s business as usual while we market the asset. We’ll stay as long as it takes to market and sell the asset,” she said. “Us leaving and someone else coming in, we hope, and we think, won’t be a big hit.”
The business that could be affected most by the change could be lodging, Tucker said.
“A lot of our impact has been from a hospitality standpoint,” she said. “We hope there isn’t any kind of lull.”
Charlene McGilton, who runs the Valley Vista Inn, said although she is concerned about Shell’s departure, business is still going well.
“I’m sure once they pull out everybody’s going to feel it. I can’t imagine they wouldn’t,” she said. “It hasn’t affected us at all yet. A lot of our business right now is tourists.”
Tammie Thompson-Booker, who is the director of sales for Candlewood Suites, said Shell's departure is part of the “boom and bust” market of the area.
“It’s not the first or last time that someone is going to leave,” she said.
Thompson-Booker said she is not “thrilled” the company is leaving, but she still is confident that business will continue as normal.
“There’s always going to be work in the area,” she said. “I am truly focused on the corporate transient business wherever they come from.”
County Commissioner Chuck Grobe said Shell's decision to pull out of the area could provide an opportunity to boost small business in Craig.
“A smaller company could come in and make it work. And, they would use more small business,” he said.
While Grobe is sure the local economy will bear Shell’s leaving just fine, he admitted that a smaller company taking over the assets won't address some of the infrastructure issues in the way a large company could.
Shell will not continue developing the last couple of miles of Highway 317, Tucker said. That part of the project was “contingent upon additional funding.”
“I’m kind of disappointed about that,” Grobe said. “Whoever picks it up will have to do that maintenance.”
Shell also contributed to the area's tax base. In 2012, Shell paid more than $500,000 in property tax dollars to Moffat County with 12 drilling operations in production. This year, Shell has 16 operations up and running.
Jeff Comstock, natural resources director for Moffat County, said Shell has made many positive contributions to the area.
“I think they left this community better than they entered it,” he said. “I have no doubt that either a company or several companies will come in where Shell left off.”
Grobe agreed. “I’m looking at it as a positive either way,” he said.
Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org