Monisha Merchant, senior advisor for business affairs for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet's office, spoke with Craig residents about economic development Thursday.

Photo by Erin Fenner

Monisha Merchant, senior advisor for business affairs for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet's office, spoke with Craig residents about economic development Thursday.

Craig residents discuss economic developments with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet staff member

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Monisha Merchant, senior advisor for business affairs for the office of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., visited Craig on Thursday to discuss economic development with residents.

The Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership hosted Merchant to speak about issues such as increasing broadband access in rural areas and what bringing satellite patent offices to Colorado would mean for the state.

Audrey Danner, interim executive director for CMEDP, expressed her concern about telecommunication in Northwest Colorado.

“Places like Rangely … are crying, not only for broadband, but for effective phone lines,” she said.

Merchant was surprised at the lack of telecommunication infrastructure.

“The basic phone line structure is not” in Rangely, she asked.

The only way to solve this issue is to work as a region, Danner said.

A creative way to boost infrastructure and local business could be by utilizing crowdsourcing, such as Kickstarter, Merchant said.

“It’s locating small amounts of funding per person, but gathering from a much larger populations,” she said.

Fort Collins strengthened its private sector with the crowd-sourcing site Community Funded, Merchant said.

Merchant also took time to examine what bringing patent offices to Denver would do for the economy.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has been in the process of setting up satellite patent offices across the country, including one in Denver, and job postings went up February.

Based on a report done by Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation and the Colorado business community, the office could bring in hundreds of jobs and bring in $440 million worth of economic activity, Merchant said.

“There’s an outreach component that’s a huge part of their mission,” she said.

That outreach would come in the form of education and support to inventors, she added.

The visit was an opportunity for Bennet’s office to learn more about the needs of rural Colorado, Merchant said.

“This is our first conversation of many,” she said.

Contact Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or efenner@craigdailypress.com.

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