Craig, Moffat County businesses might be leaving grant, loan money on the table | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig, Moffat County businesses might be leaving grant, loan money on the table

CRAIG — While many businesses and organizations in Moffat County have made use of grants to strengthen or open a business, many more are eligible for tax credits and grants that aren't currently being utilized, according to the director of Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado.

In a roundtable meeting Friday with Craig, Moffat County, Colorado Northwestern Community College, and other officials, Executive Director Bonnie Petersen, of AGNC, said Craig and Moffat County are “enhanced enterprise zone” eligible — meaning new and existing businesses likely have no idea they're leaving low-interest loan and/or grant money on the table.

"We want to make you all aware that Moffat County has, for a number of years, been in the enterprise zone," Petersen said.

She detailed several possible tax breaks for new or existing businesses, including a job training tax credit, health insurance tax credit, research tax credit, building rehab tax credit, and a state income tax break up to 25 percent.

She noted that tax credits can carry forward for four years, and all businesses have to do is become certified through the state.

Craig City Manager Peter Brixius has taken much of the city's long-term economic development plans upon himself since accepting the position.

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"The council has stepped up, and my office has stepped up and filled in where there's a void right now," Brixius said of economic development plans.

Brixius wanted to know what it would take for Craig businesses to become certified and eligible for help. He also wants to make loans or grants available to Craig businesses whose buildings need asbestos rehabilitation or other serious improvements.

He is also looking at ways of helping local businesses apply for such grants, as he questioned whether the average small business person would have the wherewithal to fill out complicated application forms.

"Is the average small businessperson going to be able to facilitate all the paperwork that these grants will require?" Brixius asked.

Much of Wednesday's economic development talk was centered around protecting energy interests while diversifying Craig and Moffat County's economy away from coal and toward technology.

"I'm looking at bringing in an aviation day," said Moffat County Commissioner Ray Beck, who added he'd like to find a way for Moffat County to feed the aerospace and aviation sector.

"Imagine some of the advanced manufacturing we could do," Beck said.

Another idea that could be eligible for grants or low-interest loans is a business incubator facility, which would encourage entrepreneurs to work and build their business while collaborating with others.

"Every community needs a co-working space, and I think Craig and Moffat County would be perfect for that," Beck said.

Bonnie Petersen said the best way for Craig and Moffat County to utilize available funding would be to write a “prospectus” and put it on the city's website for potential underwriters to view at any time. The prospectus would include an in-depth inventory of Craig and Moffat County's available business space and any other available services or planned infrastructure that could contribute to economic growth.

"I would do this sooner rather than later," said Tiffany Pehl, program administrator for AGNC.

Officials with CNCC were also in attendance and said that, while they don't have any particular degree plans specifically aimed at grant writing or coding for high-tech jobs, Keith Peterson, vice president of instruction at CNCC, said the college is exploring non-credit training as a way to feed the area's economy with skilled workers who know how to market Northwest Colorado to a larger audience.

"This place is magical, and you have to sell that," Peterson said.

Following are some of the major grants utilized by Moffat County, according to county staff:

• $365,000 grant from the Colorado Division of Housing

• $1.6 million grant for the replacement of Swinging Bridge in Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge

• $116,000 grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife for Fishing is Fun

Moffat County has also submitted a grant application to the Department of Local Affairs for $480,000 and plans to use matched funds from Tri-State to overlay approximately 3.1 miles of asphalt over County Roads 17 and 51.

Following are some of the major grants utilized by the city of Craig, according to city staff:

• $205,000 from a 2014 Colorado Public Health and Environment Oral Health Unit grant

• At least $125,000 in 2015 for public health, energy impact, handicap accessibility, and state law enforcement grants

• At least $293,000 in 2016 for public health, energy impact handicap accessibility, recycling, advocate crisis, state law enforcement, and agricultural grants

• $250,000 from the Department of Local Affairs for Craig’s water main replacement project

• At least $65,000 in 2017 for energy impact, recycling, advocate crisis, and state law enforcement grants

• $180,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation for Safe Routes to School

• At least $145,000 in 2018 for parks and recreation, business opportunities, marketing, state law enforcement, and state transit study grants

• $1 million from DOLA for Craig’s minimum chlorine residual compliance project

• $300,000 from DOLA for a design forgiveness loan

• $150,000 from Great Outdoors Colorado for the Breeze Park development, phase two

• $25,000 from the water quality control division for an assistance grant

Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1795 or cthorp@craigdailypress.com.