Moffat County moves forward with plans for economic development | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County moves forward with plans for economic development

Patrick Kelly

The Innovation Challenge Workshop for Coal-Reliant Communities offered a variety of presentations to support community leaders with creating economic diversification strategies that expand opportunities.

The push for economic development across Moffat County is still well underway.

Last week, representatives from the county, city of Craig and town of Dinosaur attended the second Innovation Challenge Workshop for Coal-Reliant Communities in Grand Junction.

Hosted by the National Association of Counties, the workshop focused on assisting counties and regions facing economic challenges caused by the contraction of the coal industry.

Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said there is always support for the energy industry but it's a good idea to try bringing in new business to diversify the local economy.

The Grand Junction NACo team consisted of Ferree, Moffat County Commissioner Frank Moe, Moffat County Finance Director Mindy Curtis, Craig City Council members Derek Duran and John Ponikvar and Dinosaur Mayor Richard Blakley.

According to NACo's website, the workshop provides attendees with plans for "retooling their economies to become more resilient to changing conditions."

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Activities at the three-day workshop included panel discussions with speakers who have experienced economic downturns and transitions in other sectors; exercises on identify goals and developing strategies; and coming up with an implementation plan.

Other regional teams from Colorado, Utah, Montana and Minnesota joined the Moffat County team at the workshop.

Duran said it was good to work with other small communities who are facing some of the same challenges and he felt reassured about the steps Moffat County has taken to move forward.

"We're on the right the path," he said.

In its team presentation, Moffat County's representatives outlined key goals:

• Diversify our economy.

• Retain residents by offering quality education, health care and recreation. Stop population outmigration by promoting and offering year round opportunities for retirees.

• Emphasize recreation assets to capitalize on economic opportunity.

• Retain tourists who use our communities as a gateway to and from Utah and Wyoming.

• Connect the county through broadband.

• Increase economic funding opportunities by hiring a grant writer.

Ponikvar said one of the most important things moving forward is bringing the entire county together to work together on these goals.

"We know there's going to be difference of opinion, but we want to hear everybody's opinion and how can we get along with one goal in mind," he said.

In April, a different Moffat County team attended the first NACo workshop in Pikeville, Kentucky.

The original team consisted of Moe; Superintendent of Moffat County School District Brent Curtice; President of Colorado Northwestern Community College Russell George; Board Chair of the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership Jay Oxley; Craig Mayor Ray Beck; and John Rossfeld, CEO of The Memorial Hospital.

At the second workshop, the new team was applauded for the progress Moffat County had made after attending the first workshop. The efforts to find additional funding by forming a Local Marketing District and bring in business by developing better broadband infrastructure were both used as examples for other groups, Duran said.

With a strong start, Ferree and Beck both agreed with Ponikvar that community involvement is going to be important moving forward.

"It's not up to five guys that happened to attended a conference to come up with a plan for moving the community forward. We would like to see if we're on the right track with what we're thinking and if the community has other ideas," Ferree said.

Reach Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@craigdailypress.com. Follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.

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