Economic development efforts move forward as county funding tightens
Craig — The economic development train continues to gain steam in Moffat County despite both good and bad news this week on county funding requests.
Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership leaders celebrated Moffat County Commissioners’ approval Tuesday to fund the organization at $35,000 for 2017. Originally budgeted to receive only $3,000 from the county this year, CMEDP received no city or county funds in 2016.
“I don’t think we can cut our way to success or prosperity,” said Moffat County Commissioner Frank Moe. “Yes, we need to be prudent with our expenses but to really move the community forward, I believe we need to grow our economy.”
CMEDP skated by last year on $19,000 in business, organizational and individual memberships plus money from reserves. Craig City Council also chose to fund CMEDP at $35,000 for 2017.
“My board and I are excited that we can move forward on our lofty goals for the year,” said CMEDP Executive Director Michelle Balleck.
The commissioners voted Tuesday not to fund a $7,500 request from a four-entity partnership: CMEDP, the Craig Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Northwestern Community College and the Colorado Workforce Center.
The funds would’ve helped fund the Business Opportunity Toolkit — a data-heavy market and supply-chain analysis — as well as provide matching funds for two grants for which the partnership alliance is applying. The city hasn’t yet voted on the same $7,500 request.
“This is one of those projects that’s going to have a direct return on investment,” Balleck said at the meeting.
Commissioners also voted down a $5,000 sponsorship request from the Northwest Colorado Rural Philanthropy Days Steering Committee, led by Balleck and several local nonprofit leaders. Craig City Council, however, voted in favor of sponsoring the September event at the $5,000 level at its Jan. 24 meeting.
Commissioner Ray Beck offered that he and his wife would personally sponsor the event at the $500 “bronze” level, and Moe also stated he and his wife would contribute to the event.
“I think the Rural Philanthropy Days conference is going to be a great boon for our nonprofit community and for our economy, and I would’ve liked to have seen support from both city and county,” Balleck said. “I understand where the county is coming from, though, that they’ve had to make a lot of hard budget decisions.”
CMEDP already submitted its first grant application Jan. 27 for the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Business Development grant, and will apply to a second grant in May. The organization has made marketing and business recruitment a strategic priority for 2017.
Though the county earmarked an estimated $45,000 for economic development in 2017, Moe said, budget constraints continue to tighten and some of that money may need to be allocated elsewhere.
“I don’t want you to think we don’t think this is important, but we just don’t feel we have the money to do it,” Commissioner Don Cook said.
Topics regarding student dress code, school curriculum, and a lighting upgrade project were among the most pressing on the agenda for the Moffat County School District Board of Education at its regular meeting Thursday, Aug. 22.