Economic diversification plan unveiled to public | CraigDailyPress.com

Economic diversification plan unveiled to public

Growth strategy, target industry analysis offer options for future of community, business solicitation

Ryan Sheridan

— By RYAN SHERIDAN

Daily Press writer

In Colorado today, questions about growth, economic and population-wise, are not about if, but when and how much. Communities on the Front Range have been changed forever by massive influxes of people and money. That growth will reach here, and the Craig Economic Development Committee (EDC) on Thursday evening unveiled a plan they hope will act as a guide for Craig an Moffat County to deal with growth and economic expansion.

John Whiteman, of Whiteman and Taintor Consulting of Denver, went through the plan he helped design for the EDC. Whiteman and Taintor specializes in consulting on economic development and tourism projects, working in a variety of states, including Alaska, Kentucky and Minnesota.

“The project you’ve put together is a good one. It’s a good one in terms of the plan showing how to dig in and see what can be done,” Whiteman said. “It’s a realistic one in that it’s not dependent on one huge company coming in, but looks to grow local business and bring in several types of business and industry.

“It’s also being done at the right time your community is not on the ropes. You’re looking down the road to plan, and if you can pull the funds together, you can have something in place right now that can bring you the benefits of that planning in a few years.”

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The keyword that helped guide the project was diversity, Whiteman said, and the plan calls for growing local businesses in size and scope while bringing in industries that match up with the community’s goals, and strengthening the local economy.

“We tried to put as much emphasis on what to do, the steps to take and what the cost might be as anything,” he said. “The plan will help you see that this is the place to go, and show you the path their.”

The first priority for the plan is hiring an economic development director or manager, a position that would coordinate plans, proposals and projects that concentrated on growing local businesses, working with area and regional partners, soliciting and cultivating bids from businesses looking to relocate, preparing infrastructure and industrial parks, guiding an incorporated economic development group, and coordinating with public and private resources to fund and enact plans and projects.

“You need someone who will … market this area. That position is really critical. It not only gets the work done, it sends the message to prospective businesses that this community is serious.”

The plan estimates $135,000 for funding will be needed for the first year, with $127,000 needed the second year.

Dean Hollenbeck, EDC chair and vice president of Colorado Northwest Community College-Craig noticed in the plan “a very clear job description [for a economic development director] that lays out step-by-step what they need to do.

“This is a community thing. We’ve got to be totally committed to this effort to successfully do this. We’re open to anything from the community,” he said. “Getting the buy in from local businesses is important, and growing the businesses here is the first thing we can do. Expanding them is real important to us. We want to grow within as much as we can, and work with business and industries that are looking to relocate. From these ideas, everybody benefits.”

Moffat County will contribute $25,000 a year for the next three years to the project. The city has offered $25,000 this year with the option of committing more annually. The Craig Chamber of Commerce has donated $10,000 this year.

Craig Mayor Dave DeRose said be believes he will be involved both as mayor and a businessman in the efforts to implement this plan, and will work to involve other local businesses to organize and fund this project.

Craig Chamber of Commerce Director Cathy Vanatta said the fact that the mayor, the Craig City Council and the Moffat County Commissioners are working together and are a positive group, good things will happen with this project.

“We need to have this planning. It’s the difference between weeds and flowers if you plan ahead, you can be selective and decide what you want to pull in,” she said. “For a community this size, we are way ahead of some larger communities. We are pro-business, the mayor being a prime example with his work with Motion Industries. That company needed a building to move here, and he built one so that could happen. Between the mayor, the City Council, and the County Commissioners, we have people behind this project who give a lot of support, and I think these plans will happen.”

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