Craig’s economic development committee identifies major goals |

Craig’s economic development committee identifies major goals

The city’s economic development committee has some big plans for the future of Craig.

At their regular meeting Monday, Nov. 18, the EDC announced several priorities it will be pursuing in the coming months and years, including a paleontology museum, a solar farm, and a small business innovation center — among other things.          

According to documentation obtained from the EDC, the group has outlined eight different future priorities, each complete with anticipated timelines for completion, partners that might work cooperatively to accomplish the goal, resources needed, and risks.

Priority one is strengthening Colorado Northwest Community College (CNCC) as a community asset by opening up licensing and other official certifications for water and wastewater systems, broadband splicing technicians, solar installers, commercial drivers licenses, and cyber security. The EDC expects to have made progress on the priority within 12 to 36 months and plans to reach out to other community colleges and universities in the area who’ve successfully started their own licensing programs.

Priority two for the EDC is establishing a paleontology museum and heavily marketing Craig and Moffat County’s vast fossil resources in the area. This would include developing support systems for tourism efforts and the increased economic impact more fossil tourists could bring, but would also include establishing an artifact museum and a better fossil repository for that museum.

Priority three is planning a regional transit authority that could serve residents across multiple counties and workforce housing for the area’s more mobile workers. The EDC said they plan to collaborate with Steamboat Springs and to secure legislative support from elected officials and CDOT, as well as from the region’s businesses interests. The plan could take four to five years and City Manager Peter Brixius said it will most likely involve a possible tax proposal to help pay for it all.

“We’d have to pass a tax initiative to support an RTA,” Brixius said.

The EDC’s priority four is a solar farm connected to the grid. The project could take at least 12 months for studying feasibility and between 36 and 48 months for negotiations before construction. At least some of the money to build the farm will likely be from a Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant or other nearby municipalities searching for ways to partner with Craig to lower their electric bills.

Priority five is outdoor recreation opportunities, such as bike and pedestrian paths across Craig, improvements at Loudy-Simpson Park, improved river access points, and supporting efforts to eventually create a recreation center and accompanying taxing district to help pay for it all, which EDC said could take between three and 15 yeas. The EDC estimates the open space and trail enhancements could happen within the next five years depending on competitive grants and cost some $6.4 million over the next five to 10 years.

Priority number six as identified by the EDC will be to launch a small business innovation and co-work facility for Craig’s small businesses and entrepreneurs. This priority has perhaps the shortest timeline for completion as the EDC expects to have the facility open and helping entrepreneurs by this coming summer. This priority includes establishing a broadband and wireless internet backbone that could provide high-speed internet for surrounding areas beyond Craig’s city limits in hopes of attracting more local neutral workers to Moffat County.

Because Craig and Moffat County still have working coal mines, the EDC’s priority seven is establishing economic opportunities that can make use of the area’s coal other than burning it for energy. A host of carbon-based products could put Craig’s coal to good use — including carbon fiber, structural composites, and carbon nano-materials that could sell for $100,000 per ton, along with 3D printing materials that could sell for $70,000 per ton, according to the EDC documentation.

“Using carbon from coal could dramatically reduce the cost of many products, ushering in a wave of innovation in advanced materials and manufacturing,” the EDC said in their documentation.

The EDC’s last priority on the list is establishing a vocational training center for training first responders, contractors and construction workers, welders, mechanics, manufacturers, electronic engineers, electricians, plumbers, solar energy technicians, avionics technicians, and more.

Councilwoman Andrea Camp said she was glad the EDC has identified their goals.

“This is a great start and a great timeline,” Camp said. “It’s just great to have some objectives and goals put down on paper.”

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