2021 in Review: Business to the future
The future of Craig will be built by the present, and, with the coal industry about to exit stage left, the new characters and developments on the business scene drove enormous deserved interest for Moffat County readers.
It didn’t start in 2021, but Frank and Kerry Moe’s effort to bring an outdoors-themed shopping and visiting experience to the largely abandoned Centennial Mall remained an item of interest and development this year.
A major contingency upon which that plan was dependent was the approval of an urban renewal authority in Craig, called, appropriately, the Craig Urban Renewal Authority. That program, which is an agreement between taxing bodies on which land sits to credit back to a developer the prospective property tax increase that comes from improved property and the subsequent increased property values so that the developer can improve the property, was finalized mid-year. The CURA board approved the Moes’ request for tax increment financing for the Yampa Valley Adventure Center in October.
The CURA itself is indicative of a part of the city of Craig’s efforts to be business-friendly. There are two urban renewal areas, one downtown and one around the area of the mall. Both have the opportunity for developers and current real estate owners to acquire financing to improve property within the lines drawn and approved by the CURA.
However, another city effort to help out businesses was nixed late this year, as the outgoing city council decided to end the three-year-old Small Business Grant amid questions of its legitimacy and legality. The future of the small-time grant program, which awarded tens of thousands of dollars a year to local small businesses, is uncertain, but, for now, it is no more.
One development was the opposite of permanent but could portend future activity and made Moffat County feel a little bit “on the map.” That was the advent of a Busch Light-led outdoor temporary workspace in early October. The space, called TreeWork, was near Freeman Reservoir.
“They provide beer, wifi and a place to work,” said Gary Cole, who owned the land on which the space was staged. “They’re bringing in a new group every day, they stay one night. It’s here through Friday, and they’ll be hosting about 60 people total. Out of thousands of applicants, they had to keep it pretty limited.”
The Anheuser-Busch corporate gimmick, such as it was, drew a lot of eyeballs.
Whether it might be the beginning of something long-term is up in the air.
“It’s too early to say, being in the midst of TreeWork now,” a representative of Anheuser-Busch said at the time. “But response has been overwhelming, and we’re encouraged. We want to do this type of activation for our fans again, but it’s too early to say. We’re thrilled with how it’s going and looking so far.”
Other businesses moved — Furniture Connection went from the mall to a spot downtown inside Jackson Office Supply, Fessler’s Barbershop moved from downtown out to a standalone building near Wendy’s, and Big O Tires moved down the strip in the same Centennial Mall parking lot to a much, much larger space on the corner where the old Safeway was. All were evidence of positive momentum for the respective business owners, who were expanding or improving their offerings.
Craig Steel, a generations-old business born and built in town, changed hands, as the former owners sold to former employees of the power plant. The pleasure on both sides was keeping the company local.
In worse news, Craig’s Bank of the West branch closed. In better news, just last week, Craig’s Kitchen a la More announced it would be a T-Mobile authorized retailer.
A few new businesses opened, too, including Way Out West on the west side of town, a western apparel retailer, Blue Sage Salon downtown, The 14er Outdoor & Running Emporium near downtown, and two pot shops — Kind Castle and Tumbleweed Dispensary.
The future is murky and hard to discern, to be sure, but several small, positive developments shed a bit of light on a dark and uncertain path forward for Craig and Moffat County.
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Tanner Coulter and his family were looking for somewhere to spread out a bit.