Tens of millions in Build Back Better money could be coming Moffat County way | CraigDailyPress.com

Tens of millions in Build Back Better money could be coming Moffat County way

CNCC could grow from federal grant

Colorado Northwestern Community College's Craig campus.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

Moffat County could be poised to receive a part of $50 million in Build Back Better money, if a large grant application is approved. It could involve a new center of innovation at the CNCC campus in Craig.

The Moffat County Affiliated Junior College Board discussed updates on the BBB grant at their monthly meeting with Colorado Northwestern Community College administrators on Monday. Kirstie McPherson, chair of the board, said the state of Colorado put in three applications for part of that large sum. One was for a coal reliance program, which would be centered in the Yampa Valley.

Another application came from a project in Pueblo, and the third is coming from a project on the Eastern Slope.

“It’s very much centered on how to create stronger, more resilient communities,” McPherson said. “It was led by Region 10, which was in part with (Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado). It was, I think, a total of about seven counties included in the total, but it was very focused on those projects that we just talked about. I believe that they turned in a project that was in total worth about $55 million. Which means that we have to put in a lot of money to be able to get that out.”

In March, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law, allocating $3 billion in supplemental funding to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to accelerate economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The EDA is making a Coal Communities Commitment, allocating $300 million of its $3 billion American Rescue Plan appropriation to ensure support for coal-centered communities that are facing shifts in economic dependency as a result of environmental regulations phasing out coal production. This commitment will be fulfilled through $100 million in Build Back Better Regional Challenge grants and $200 million in Economic Adjustment Assistance grants.

Part of the money would come from matching resources, which McPherson said would be 20% for each project. In Moffat County, some of that money would go toward what CNCC President Lisa Jones calls the “Northwestern Colorado Innovation Center at CNCC,” for which Jones said the college has requested $8 million in funds. This innovation center, Jones said, could be a hub for research on alternative sources of energy once the power plants and coal mines close.

“(Partners with the University of Wyoming) have been asking for a location to conduct research development in an innovation center,” Jones said. “We want to be that place. They’re our partners, and if they’re coming here, we want to be able to have this area viewed as a center for innovation in that arena.”

Jones also said that Tri-State is asking for over $10 million for research and development of alternative energy to be conducted at their facilities, which could lead to potential in sectors like molten salt or hydrogen.

Each individual project must have 20% of the resources received matched by the community, but those matching resources can come from several avenues — including funds, property or staffing assigned to the project or equipment. James Caldwell, vice president of business and administration, explained at Monday’s meeting that the match for the innovation center would be made up of a combination of factors.

“The two primary parts would be the relative value of renting that space, so calculating that would be donated as part of the match,” Caldwell said. “That’s just about a million dollars, (and) it’s calculated over a period of the grant, as well as the position that we have jointly agreed to fund. Then administrative costs that go into that, as well. Clearly we put together some basic rules and how we conceptualize how the project would work. Obviously, as we get into the grant, there will be more details that we have to go shape. But basically, by doing that, we’re able to satisfy about $1.6 million that we would need to provide as an organization.”

McPherson added that she has a good gut feeling that the grant application will be approved.

“I think that (CNCC’s involvement is) amazing,” McPherson said. “Also, I think we should all probably buckle up a little bit, because I would assume that our odds are very, very good on getting this grant. Because I only know two others in the nation and I work all over the place. I only know of only two other coal buckets that are actually going after it, and there’s ten total. So I think everybody should probably hold on tight, because the odds are pretty good.”

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