Craig officials move forward with Rural Jump-Start | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig officials move forward with Rural Jump-Start

Lauren Blair

Ken Jensen, senior manager for the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and Michelle Balleck, executive director for Craig Moffat Economic Development Partnership, met with members of Craig City Council, Moffat County Commissioners and other city, county and college officials Monday at Colorado Northwestern Community College to discuss the launch of the Rural Jump-Start Program in Moffat County. The program offers tax incentives to startups that could bring jobs and new industry to Craig.

— City and county officials convened Monday to discuss the launch of a new statewide program in Moffat County that could bring new business and jobs to Craig.

The Rural Jump-Start Program incentivizes new startups or out-of-state businesses to set up shop in rural parts of the state by offering tax relief on both state and local taxes.

Ken Jensen with the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade met with Craig community leaders for the second time — the first was via webinar in October — to answer questions and identify next steps.

"There's no cost to get the program up and running," Jensen said. "But this is a tricky program because it's hard to find companies that don't compete."

To qualify, businesses must be either a startup or based out of state, and they must not directly compete with any other business currently operating within Colorado.

To attract these businesses, the state agrees to waive state income taxes and sales and use taxes, while the city and county must agree to waive business personal property taxes. The program also requires the participation of a sponsoring institution of higher education, a role that Colorado Northwestern Community College is eager to fill.

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The program launched in 2016 with Mesa County first out of the gate. It signed seven new businesses in 2016 while Montrose County signed its first business this month.

"So there's a lot of economic opportunity that hasn't been tapped into that Moffat County could really benefit from," said Michelle Balleck, executive director for Craig Moffat Economic Development Partnership.

New businesses that opened their doors in Mesa County ranged from a company making water bottles out of plastic that is both biodegradable and recyclable — the first of its kind — to two companies taking different approaches to researching oil shale extraction. Another company has developed solar-powered hydroponic plant pots and another has developed a proprietary building material dubbed "hemp adobe."

Balleck and other community leaders are seeking grant money to complete a local market analysis to determine what industries would be best suited to Northwest Colorado. The data will then guide their efforts to identify and attract new businesses through the Rural Jump-Start Program.

"For the local entities, this is not costing us anything and we would do this anyway, so the added benefit of getting the state taxes waived is crucial to us," said Craig City Manager Mike Foreman.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1795 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBNews.