Craig City Council member Ray Beck, left, and Craig Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Oxley, right, participated Wednesday in the latest Stronger Economies Together meeting at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion in Craig. During the meeting community leaders from Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties discussed themes for a regional vision statement.

Photo by Joe Moylan

Craig City Council member Ray Beck, left, and Craig Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Oxley, right, participated Wednesday in the latest Stronger Economies Together meeting at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion in Craig. During the meeting community leaders from Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties discussed themes for a regional vision statement.

Regional leaders begin to develop shared economic vision

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“It was interesting to list the places where we have commonalities and the places we have vast differences. I think coming together on things that benefit not just communities but the entire region is going to be a great part of the process.”

— Christina Oxley, executive director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce, about Wednesday’s SET meeting

— Community leaders from throughout the Yampa Valley congregated in Craig on Wednesday to begin developing a collaborative vision statement for the region.

The White River Region Vision for 2050 brainstorming session was the highlight of the third Stronger Economies Together meeting of the year, and the first SET meeting hosted in Craig.

Stronger Economies Together is a rural economic development program offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Office. SET was developed to help regional teams examine and implement new approaches to strengthen regional economic development activities.

Last year, the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership teamed up with the Meeker Chamber of Commerce and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association to apply for the program. The White River Region encompasses Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties and was the only rural multi-county region in Colorado selected to participate in the 2013 program.

Wednesday’s meeting at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion drew more than 25 participants from the partner counties.

The meeting was led by Pattie Snidow, northwest area director for USDA’s Rural Development Office; Nancy Banman, from the Colorado State University Extension Office in Fort Collins; and Travis Hoesli, director of the Granby Extension Office in Kremmling.

The group spent the majority of the six-hour workshop discussing not only existing and impending political and economic challenges facing the region but also recreational, environmental and cultural qualities they want to protect.

Christina Oxley, executive director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce, found the brainstorming session particularly interesting because of the vast economic differences among the cities in the region.

For example, Oxley said much of the conversation focused on natural resources and the contributions of coal mines and coal-fired power plants to the local tax base.

Those contributions are critical to maintaining government services in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, Oxley said, but not so much in Routt County, which generates the majority of its tax revenue through tourism.

“It was interesting to list the places where we have commonalities and the places we have vast differences,” Oxley said. “I think coming together on things that benefit not just communities but the entire region is going to be a great part of the process.”

Craig City Council member Ray Beck also cited natural resources as being key to Wednesday’s conversation and was pleased to see outdoor recreation, energy and agricultural all equally touted as key economic drivers for the region.

“We came together not only as a collection of communities but as a region to outline what is important to Northwest Colorado,” Beck said. “It all comes down to everyone getting on the same page and capitalizing on our assets.”

A formal vision statement encompassing the most important themes will be compiled during the next several weeks, Banman said.

SET meetings take place on the first Wednesday of each month and rotate among Craig, Steamboat Springs and Meeker, said Audrey Danner, interim director of the EDP.

The next meeting, which is open to the public, is at 9 a.m. June 5 in Steamboat Springs. The location is still to be determined.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 970-875-1794 or jmoylan@CraigDailyPress.com

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