Community leaders engaging over economic development | CraigDailyPress.com

Community leaders engaging over economic development

Patrick Kelly

Owners of the Hampton Inn & Suites are among several Craig hoteliers who signed a petition to put a Local Marketing District on the November ballot, which would create a new 4-percent lodging tax on hotel rooms and accommodations in Craig and Moffat County in order to fund economic development and tourism promotion in the region.

As community leaders work to get the signatures needed to put a local marketing district on the November ballot, they are also forming plans that they hope will help strengthen Moffat County's economy.

While ideas are being bounced around, Craig Mayor Ray Beck and Moffat County Commissioner Frank Moe are working on a petition to get the local marketing district on the November ballot. Signatures for the petition are needed by the Aug. 17 deadline.

Supporters of the local marketing district must collect enough support/signatures from commercial property owners representing 50 percent of the total assessed commercial property value in Moffat County — a little over $17 million.

According to Doyle O'Neil, general manager of Hampton Inn & Suites, who is working to complete the petition, they currently have signatures representing about $14 million of commercial property.

O'Neil said he is waiting to hear back from the corporate offices of Walmart, Kmart and Clarion Inn & Suites, but with their support the petition would have about $18 million worth of signatures.

Dave DeRose, former owner of Masterworks Mechanical, is also working to get signatures on the petition and he said that should be everyone's main focus right now.

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"We get this issue on the ballot then we worry about making a plan," he said. "If we don't get it on the ballot we don't need to worry about making a plan, if we get it on the ballot, hey, we're in good shape."

The local marketing district, which would include Craig, Dinosaur and all of unincorporated Moffat County, creates an additional 4 percent lodging tax. The funds collected from the tax could be used for promoting tourism, supporting business recruitment, management and development, and organizing public events.

Beck said he knows it might seem backward to ask people to support the tax before having a specific plan for the additional income from the local marketing district, but once it is on the ballot that will be the next step.

"I know it's all about the plan," he said. "We just keep telling people that we got to get through the process, get this on the ballot, and then we'll work on the plan."

As Beck pointed out, Colorado law states that there must be an implementation plan for local marketing districts.

According to Colorado Revised Statute 29-25-110, which lays out the rules for forming a local marketing district states, "No district created under the provisions of this article shall levy a marketing and promotion tax, or provide services unless the local government or each member of the combination has approved an operating plan for the district. The operating plan shall specifically identify the services to be provided by the district, any marketing and promotion tax to be imposed by the district, and such additional information as required."

The Moffat County Tourism Association, Craig Chamber of Commerce and Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership initially went to Beck and Moe suggesting the three entities merge, but the idea was shot down.

They since have been working together to create a clear strategy that defines the different roles and responsibilities of each group.

"Not necessarily creating one plan that all three of us are working on but solidifying our strategic planning within our core responsibilities of each group," said Melody Villard, MCTA director.

The document would "list who is the lead agency and who are the partners who would work on a given goal," said Audrey Danner, CMEDP director.

Villard said the cooperative planning is not directly related to the local marketing district and the three groups would be working on it regardless of the petition.

"The only tie to local marketing district is some of the discussion of these three entities really working closely together," she said.

Villard said MCTA cannot form under another board due to state statute regarding management of lodging taxes.

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