CU-Boulder, DOLA join discussion on Craig’s economy | CraigDailyPress.com

CU-Boulder, DOLA join discussion on Craig’s economy

Patrick Kelly

Members of the Craig community provide feedback to Brian Lewandowski, associate director of the business research division at University of Colorado at Boulder as part of a study on the economies of rural communities. The meeting took place in Craig City Council chambers Monday afternoon.

Lately, the talk of the town is economic diversification.

How can Craig and Moffat County ensure a stable economy? Especially given the current climate of the energy industry and increasing federal regulation that is poised to drastically limit natural resource development in Northwest Colorado. Such points were on the minds of many Monday at city hall.

As part of that discussion, local leaders met with a representative of University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business to discuss intangibles that might factor into a comprehensive study on the economic resilience of multiple rural communities.

Brian Lewandowski, associate director of the business research division at CU-Boulder, lead the discussion and was joined by members of city and county government, local business owners, representatives of the Craig Chamber of Commerce and individuals working in education and health.

"While some communities bounce back quickly from downturns, others lag behind and sometimes never completely recover. The questions facing us now are: why do certain communities recover more quickly than others, and how can we better assist the communities that don't?" states the meeting agenda from CU.

The Anshutz Foundation, the El Pomar Foundation, the Gates Foundation and the Telluride Foundation funded the project, and it's being conducted by CU's Business Research Division in conjunction with the Department of Local Affair's State Demography office.

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"What is economic resiliency?" asked Lewandowski at the start of the meeting. "In essence, it's how a community responds to economic shocks."

Lewandowski described economic shocks as outside influences on an economy that can have detrimental impacts on its overall health.

The discussion provided opportunity for individuals in multiple fields to share their viewpoints. Most agreed that economic resiliency in Craig and the county could be improved.

Director of Public Health at Northwest Colorado Health — formerly Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association — Charity Neal spoke up on the importance of providing decent healthcare and education in order to attract new people to Craig.

"There are really three cornerstones to seeing your community be successful — your economics, your education and your healthcare," she said. "You can get someone to say their going to open a business here but once they Google our schools or Google our health care, they may not come."

Craig City Council member Joe Bird said the entire economy is tied to coal and fear for the future of that industry creates uncertainty, which plays a large part in furthering economic development.

"It's been inconsistent for a lot of people, and I think the stuff we discussed about the coal mines and all that has created a lot of instability," he said. "I believe that there is still a lot of money in Moffat County, it's just not being spent."

Lewandowski presented some preliminary data that shows Craig as basically in the same ballpark, if not better off, than comparable rural communities and the full report will be released next month.

One consensus reached by local representatives who spoke with Lewandowski is the need to embrace change in Craig and Moffat County.

"The potential is there but it is going to take us working together with common goals," Moffat County Commissioner Frank Moe said.

Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.