Craig Moffat Economic Development Partnership to close doors Feb. 20
January 24, 2019
CRAIG — More than two decades of work by public-private partnership Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership will come to an end after board members decided to dissolve the organization when their insurance policy runs out Feb. 20.
"We are saying this hasn't worked, but that doesn't mean the fight to grow this community is over. The fight for our community has to continue," said Executive Director Michelle Perry, who will remain to wrap up business before relocating to the Midwest.
"I've known for a while that it is time for me to look to be closer to home, and this is the impetus to make that change," she said.
Past board chair Jay Oxley attended the first part of the meeting as the board discussed dissolution. He said he was "shocked" to learn the board intended to dissolve the organization after members elected in December to keep the nonprofit open until after Craig City Council elections in April.
"What happened?" he asked.
The city and county decided to address economic development in a new way that doesn't include support or consultation of the members of the organization, current board chair Luke Tucker said.
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CMEDP's bylaws did not require a vote of the membership to close.
"I pushed the board to include membership in December, but ultimately, the legal decision is with the board," Perry said.
The board agreed to fund up to $2,500 for legal counsel to ensure assets and paperwork are finalized as required by Colorado law and distributed per the entity's by-laws.
Perry noted dissolving the organization has "brought about a lot of great community involvement and the realization of the importance of economic development."
She pointed to higher attendance at the CMEDP meetings and the community response to economic development discussions held by City Council in recent months.
Council had the option to fold CMEDP into its operations and had initially proposed creating a new department of economic development. That idea was ultimately rejected in favor of investing a minimum of $162,800 into projects recommended by a newly formed city economic development committee.
That committee had its first meeting Jan. 14.
Council members Chris Nichols, Tony Bohrer, and Andrea Camp recommended using $62,800 in support of a wayfinding sign project, up to $100,000 for a new matching grant program for improvements to area businesses, and up to $75,000 from reserves for at least two infrastructure improvement projects.
Mayor John Ponikvar did not include the committee on the Jan. 22 council meeting agenda, saying he felt it needed more time to work on details.
"We're pouring all our money into community development. No one is looking outside the city limits for the next opportunity. That's where this community is in trouble," said CMEDP board member Derek Duran, who is also a member of the city council but will not seek re-election when his term expires in April.
CMEDP Treasurer Chris Jones also expressed frustration with the shift from economic development.
"It's a power grab by some members of that council. It's ridiculous to me that they think they know more than what Michelle has done every day for two-and-a-half years," he said.
It was well known that, each year, CMEDP staff and board members spent a significant portion of their time finding the funds to stay afloat. It was a struggle the organization was facing again when both city and county decided not to provide funding in 2019.
"Everyone got tired of fighting it. I wanted to mothball the thing, but if none of the other board members want to do it, there's no reason to fight it," Oxley said during a follow-up interview.
"It's a legacy that is at an end," he added.
Board members also unanimously voted to dissolve the Marianna Raftopoulos Business Success Center after first contacting the Raftopoulos family, which provided free business development services.
CMEDP may meet again in February, though Perry said details are uncertain.
Going forward, she said, those interested in economic development should contact Moffat County Commissioner Donald Broom or Craig City Manager Peter Brixius.
"My hope is that the community stays engaged and pushes local elected officials to see the change they want for the community," Perry said.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.