Officials credit growth in Craig, Moffat County to recreation, resources, economy | CraigDailyPress.com

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Officials credit growth in Craig, Moffat County to recreation, resources, economy

Craig Mayor Don Jones contends growth is important to any city.

"The citizens are always wanting more amenities and different places to eat and, as you grow, things grow with you, things come in," he said. "Otherwise, if we have no growth, we are stale and we are going to die."

Craig and Moffat County both grew in population from 2008 to 2009, according to estimates recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2009, 9,301 residents were estimated to live in Craig, up from 9,220 in 2008.

Craig ranked 137th in the state in growth among the 270 cities counted by the Census Bureau.

Since 2000, Craig has grown by 112 residents.

In 2005, the city dipped in population to 8,933, but has grown steadily by about 100 residents each year since.

In 2009, Moffat County was estimated to have 13,980 residents, up from 13,822 the year before.

The 158 additional county residents represented a 1.1-percent increase in population. Moffat County ranks 28th in growth among the 64 counties in Colorado.

Since 2000, Moffat County has grown by 796 residents. The county also dipped in population in 2005, reaching 13,122.

Darcy Trask, director of the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership, said population growth is correlated with the availability of jobs and the economy of an area.

"People will always move where there are jobs," she said. "We need to remember that we did a lot better than the rest of the country for a lot longer, and there are counties in Colorado whose unemployment rate is 15 percent."

Christina Currie, Craig Chamber of Commerce executive director, said the Craig and Moffat County economy has been relatively stable the last few years, despite a recession.

"Things are a little bit tough in Moffat County right now, but certainly we haven't seen the job cuts, the housing crash, the entire economic wipeout that other communities have seen," she said.

The stability of the area's economy is attractive to residents looking to re-locate, Currie said.

"I don't think that was a factor over the past few years, but right now, when you are seeing a national recession … I think people will consider that more now than they ever did," she said.

Currie said the energy industry and the "steady" and "well-paying" jobs created because of it have helped the area maintain growth and economic prosperity.

State Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, said the reason "growth has been slow but stable, is that jobs have been slow but stable."

Currie said there are a number of other reasons the area has grown in population.

"Moffat County is just a fantastic place to live," she said. "We've got a relatively low crime rate, we've got recreational amenities in every different direction as far as hiking, biking, activity on the river, hunting, fishing, and that is appealing to a lot of people."

In Craig, Currie said the "small-town atmosphere" appeals to many people.

"You certainly don't have traffic," she said. "You have a five-minute commute to, well, anywhere. For a lot of people, that's really appealing, particularly if they lived in a big city for a while."

Jones agreed, and also cited events and activities in Craig and Moffat County, such as Grand Olde West Days and the Whittle the Wood Rendezvous, among others, as appealing features of the area.

"People kind of see the area and think, 'You know, this might not be a bad place to live,"' he said. "It looks good right now — everything is green and in the middle of the winter everything is white. If you are geared to that type of climate, this is the perfect place."

Currie said she thinks the area will continue to grow for the same reasons it has already.

"We've got a lot of jobs between the government, energy, health care sector, and the services to that, and a lot of availability for jobs, and so that means a lot more bodies," she said.

Trask said she thinks the area might decrease in population in coming years, but will rebound in the long-run.

The near future of growth in the area is heavily influenced on unemployment, Trask said.

Jones said he expects Craig will have a "good, slow, steady growth, which is perfect."