Editorial: How will things be?
Editor’s note: Craig Press Publisher Renee Campbell was unable to attend this week’s meeting of the Editorial Board and did not participate in the development of this position.
After 17 years working to bolster economic development in the area, the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership on Wednesday officially closed up shop. At the same time, the related Marianna Raftopoulos Business Incubator Center was also dissolved after six years of service to the community.
We are saddened to see these two worthwhile and important organizations come to their end, and we offer our heartfelt appreciation to all those who have been involved with their efforts through the years. We cannot thank you enough.
We won’t belabor the circumstances that led to the dissolution of these organizations. While there is little doubt more than one factor came into play, in our view, the final nail in the coffin lid was a lack of funding exacerbated by declining revenue streams — ironically, the same issue these two organizations were founded to address.
But debating the reasons behind the groups’ departures is not nearly as important as ensuring their efforts and vision do not die along with them. As Michelle Perry — who served as executive director for both organizations — wrote in a farewell column published Wednesday, the dissolution of the two organizations: “… does not mean — in fact, it cannot mean — that economic development is no longer a critical need. Our community is up against a fight for its life, and we need powerful economic development more now than likely ever in our past.”
We wholeheartedly agree.
While we salute and commend ongoing efforts by our city and county officials to identify ways of trimming budgets and combining efforts wherever possible and appropriate, we think it unlikely our community will be able to sustain itself — much less thrive — into the future through cost-cutting measures alone.
Our energy-reliant tax base has seriously eroded, and in the coming years, it will erode further.
These are unpleasant, yet inescapable facts.
If we intend to leave a thriving community for our children and our grandchildren, we must take decisive action now to diversify our economy toward the inevitable changes that continue to rush toward us.
And happily, we see signs such action may already be in the works.
We were encouraged by news this week that the Craig City Council is preparing to ramp up its efforts to remove blighted structures in the downtown area. Nothing says “this town is dying” any more clearly than empty, deteriorating storefronts and unoccupied, ramshackle houses littering the thoroughfares, and we commend council members for taking action to expedite the removal of such structures.
Efforts are also afoot to rehabilitate some of our historic downtown structures that have fallen into disrepair. For example, one of downtown Craig’s older buildings — located at 576 Yampa Ave., next door to the Museum of Northwest Colorado — is currently undergoing extensive repairs and renovations by Yampa Valley Brewing Company and will soon become home to the Barrel Cathedral, Craig’s first brewpub. This addition is almost certain to bolster downtown business and create a far more attractive streetscape.
We see opportunities for many more revitalizations of this type, and many might be at least partially funded by historic grant funds.
We were also encouraged by the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners’ recent decision to approve a conditional-use permit for TransWest’s proposed multi-state electric transmission line, which would cross the county and could generate an estimated $31.4 million in property taxes through the 50-year life of the project.
Will either of these projects alone turn our county around?
And perhaps that’s at the root of why some residents didn’t recognize the full value of the work spearheaded by CMEDP and the Raftopoulos Center. Economic development is a slow process, and we shouldn’t expect to see results overnight.
There is no silver bullet.
But at the end of the day, it’s up to us to ensure Moffat County remains a quality place to live 50 years from now … 100 years from now … beyond.
And this task will become even more challenging without an organization dedicated to ensuring it happens.
So, we salute and thank those who poured their blood, sweat, and tears into furthering the work of the CMEDP and the Raftopoulos Center and we encourage our leaders to continue exploring ways to continue that work.
Returning to Perry’s farewell column: “Economic development is the most crucial role for our community’s leaders at this critical time in our history. We hope you’ll keep this role and the projects we’ve spearheaded top of mind. Economic development is the key to Craig and Moffat County’s future success. Let’s not forget that.”