Downtown business assessment brings together Craig leaders to plan economic development

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Downtown Colorado Inc. made a stop in Craig on Tuesday to go over an assessment that that had been conducted in March.

Katherine Correll, executive director of Downtown Colorado Inc., said this was an opportunity to get big players in town on board with planning to boost the economy in Craig’s downtown. The meeting brought together Craig community and business leaders to brainstorm on economic development.

“Downtown is like the heart of your community,” Correll said. “The heart of your community is what draws people.”

Craig’s downtown has been through quite a bit of change in 2013.

The Golden Cavvy closed up shop, leaving a hole on Yampa Avenue. But other businesses made their way into the center of Craig. Businesses such as Capo, a hair salon; Intermountain Appliance, a furniture store; and Paddy Whack, a pet shop, all found locations in downtown Craig. Also, Do-it-Downtown worked with businesses in the summer. Businesses stayed open later Thursdays, and artists presented their goods alongside the farmers market.

All of that happened after Downtown Colorado Inc.’s March meeting, which had been an effort to engage local business leaders in planning committees to stimulate growth. There had been enthusiasm, but Nadine Daszkiewicz, owner of The Kitchen Shop, said that enthusiasm tapered off partly because the first downtown business assessment meeting in March hadn’t produced a report in the timeline expected.

“We really lost all the momentum we had in March,” Daszkiewicz said. “We didn’t get the report until August.”

Correll explained that it had taken more than two months longer to pull together the report because of unforeseen circumstances. Staff was gone, she said, and agencies Downtown Colorado Inc. worked with were involved in flood and fire recovery.

So, Downtown Colorado Inc. came to Craig the second time around, free of charge, to pick up where they left off.

Correll went over some of the issues the community needs to address in order to create a thriving center.

“What can you do to fill empty storefronts?” she said.

Filling storefronts can change the culture of a downtown. It doesn’t need to be filled with businesses, necessarily, as long as the spaces don’t look vacant, she said. The point is to keep people in the area, and keep them coming back. Do-it-Downtown may not have immediately created a bustling downtown, but it was a step in the right direction, Correll said.

“You have to form habits. It may take people a while to realize (downtown businesses are) open late Thursdays,” she said.

Mayor Terry Carwile, who owns Downtown Books, agreed that it was a good move.

“It’s not good to have the farmers market absent, but we still have been able to attract some folks Thursday evenings,” he said.

Correll also said it was important to get local entities working together on events and community planning.

“We’d like to see groups come together,” she said. “It becomes about the whole community working together.”

She suggested that one simple way groups could work together was by creating a community calendar that captured all the events happening in Craig.

The next step was to organize steering committees from the group of people at the Tuesday meeting. These committees could focus on economic development from different angles of interest.

“We need to think about how to strategically use resources,” Correll said.

Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.

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