Moffat County to gain assistance from national organization on economic development | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County to gain assistance from national organization on economic development

Noelle Leavitt Riley

Moffat County is one of seven counties in the United States that was chosen to participate in an Innovation Challenge Workshop to help diversify coal-reliant counties.

The National Association of Counties (NACo) awarded Moffat County the challenge after county officials worked long-hard hours to submit an application for the workshop. NACo will assist the chosen counties that have "experienced economic challenges related to the coal industry."

"It's just smart economics," said Moffat County Commissioner Frank Moe of the workshop.

He added that although he believes coal will still keep the county viable for a long time, it's a good idea to help other parts of the economy. "We know that diversifying our economy is something we must do," he said.

Doing just that has been at the forefront of the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership for the last several years.

"There's been a challenge of continuous funding and a difference of opinion on what the (EDP's) goals should be," Moe said. "Not all of the community is clicking."

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Moe hopes that working with the National Association of Counties will help the EDP solidify its plans on how to boost Moffat County's economy — outside of the coal industry.

Jay Oxley, chair of the local EDP, is on the committee that will travel to Pikeville, Kentucky, at the end of April to learn about diversification. Oxley, Moe and five others from Moffat County are on the board.

The group is comprised of all areas of business within the county. The Memorial Hospital CEO John Rossfeld, Colorado Northwestern Community College President Russell George, Moffat County School District Superintendent Brent Curtice and Craig's new mayor — who will be elected April 7 — are all on the committee.

"Putting all of those entities together will be helpful with the discussion of economic development," said Executive Director of Craig/Moffat EDP Audrey Danner.

Moffat County Commissioners and staff handpicked the team as a part of the application process. Moffat County Finance Director Mindy Curtis was also instrumental in pulling the group together and applying for the workshop.

"I'm excited that this happened," Commissioner Chuck Grobe said. "I'm just excited that we have all these experts that will work with us and see what we can do."

The U.S. Economic Development Administration supports the effort in NACo's workshop that's poised to help "job creation, business growth and long-term strategies that will benefit some of America's hardest hit communities," according to a NACo press release.

"We are pleased to announce this groundbreaking effort specifically designed to help communities struggling with coal-related economic challenges," NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase said in a statement. "This initiative will help foster economic conditions for growth and provide communities with tools to achieve their potential."

Reach Noelle Leavitt Riley at 970-875-1790 or nriley@craigdailypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @noelleleavitt.

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