Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership board recommends dissolution, membership decides to reevaluate in April
CRAIG — To dissolve or not to dissolve — that was the question posed to 17 members of the Craig Moffat Economic Development Partnership when they met Wednesday, Dec. 19.
“EDP members are frustrated,” said business owner Scott Cook, who is also a former board member and attended the meeting Wednesday. “Directors have spent a large amount of time on funding instead of on the work of economic development.”
CMEDP is a public-private partnership, but it will begin 2019 without funding from local governments.
“It’s not so much a funding issue; it’s an issue of investment and support, though we do need both,” said CMEDP board chair Luke Tucker.
And, concern about support for economic development had the board asking its members if the organization should keeps it’s doors open.
“The fact is that we need our governments to buy-in and to be accountable to economic development and be invested in it. It doesn’t seem like we have that investment, right now,” Tucker said.
After hearing from everyone, the 17 members attending the meeting voted 10 to seven in favor of keeping CMEDP open until April.
This will allow time for the board to consider options in light of Craig City Council workshops in January and February aimed at determining the city’s role in supporting economic development. CMEDP members expect to be part of those discussions.
Municipal elections will also be held in April, and four city council seats are up for grabs, so support for economic development — and the direction the city might take in terms of fostering it — could change, depending on the wishes of the new council.
“We, as a community, must have an effective economic development effort that has a long-term vision and long-term sustainability,” Mayor John Ponikvar wrote in an email to CMEDP board members Thursday morning.
With the local economy heavily dependent on the energy industry, Cook thinks most people are in favor of some type of economic development, but have differences of opinion on whether to focus on growing existing businesses or using incentives to recruit new ones.
“Now is the time to do it. We have to get a unified vision between the three groups (CMEDP, Craig, and Moffat County). The county needs to come to the table, too,” Ponikvar wrote.
For the past two years, CMEDP — funded through business memberships, grants, and city and county support — has been the focus of conversations about mergers and partnerships.
Moffat County Commissioner Frank Moe spearheaded an attempted merger of CMEDP, the Moffat County Local Marketing District, and Moffat County Tourism Association, but the effort failed to gain support.
About six months ago, the Craig Chamber of Commerce invited CMEDP — which, according to Chris Nichols, chamber board member and city council member, started as a Chamber committee — to discuss a proposal that would have seen CMEDP move back under the Chamber umbrella.
For the interim, CMEDP will continue to operate and work to move several projects forward, Tucker said, including final work on the Business Opportunity Toolkit and an Opportunity Zones prospectus.
Members will meet again in January to determine the scope of their work in 2019 and decide if they will fill vacant board seats and hold elections or wait until April.
“The future of Craig and Moffat County will swing on community decisions that will be made in the upcoming months,” Ponikvar said.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.