Open mind, communication, cooperation instrumental in leading EDP
In 2008, Darcy Owens-Trask almost missed getting a job.
The Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership had just lost its director and the organization’s board was considering dissolving.
Owens-Trask caught two breaks. The first was when the board decided to keep the organization intact.
“They decided not to (disband) and hired an interim director for a short time to help them with some strategic planning,” Owens-Trask said. “Then they opened up a part-time position and actually (offered) somebody else.”
Break number two came when the person offered the EDP position turned it down. It fell to Owens-Trask, who has led EDP and worked with local businesses for three years.
“I was their second choice, but I was very delighted to be put into the role,” she said.
During her tenure with EDP, she’s been able to turn the then-struggling organization into a keyplayer locally by implementing programs designed to assist local businesses or aid prospective entrepreneuers.
Part of the reason EDP and its director are a good fit, Trask said, is because she understands the complexity of both rural life and the corporate world.
Owens-Trask, now a Steamboat Springs resident, grew up in the small town of Peyton, roughly a 40-minute drive from Colorado Springs. She was a member of a 4-H program, and had a graduating high school class of 11 students.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy with a minor in business management in 1994 from Colorado Mountain College and also earned an associate’s degree in resort management from the school.
Before joining the local EDP, her work experience included time on the Steamboat Springs EDP.
She also was appointed by then-governor Bill Owens to be on a state Women’s Economic Development Council from 2000 to 2002.
“I feel like I’m able to listen to a wide variety of viewpoints and look for common ground and how we can come up with some things that are good for most of the people, organizations or businesses that are involved,” Owens-Trask said.
To do her job properly, she not only deals with local businesses, but also government officials.
In dealing with the two different groups, however, there can be difficulties because of the confidentiality of dealing with some businesses.
“One of the reasons the organization has struggled in the past is a lot of the work that economic developers do is confidential,” Owens-Trask said. “Sometimes it takes a lot of time for the work to produce an outcome. So I think intrinsically, it’s a tough job.”
Over the years, the position has changed.
When she entered in 2008, the national and local economies had not yet to fell the brunt of pressures from the current recession.
“When I first started, we really were not heavily involved with some of our core industries like mining and extraction and utilities because we were having this economic boom,” she said. “There’s always been a lot of regulation in those sectors, but it wasn’t overwhelming and I’d say a lot has changed in oil and gas, mining and extraction, and utilities in the three years I’ve been there.”
Because of that, EDP has made recent efforts to support those industries, including a trip to Denver in September 2010 to speak at a Colorado Public Utilities Commission hearing regarding Colorado House Bill 10-1365, otherwise known as the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act.
Chris Jones, an EDP Board member, said he respects Owens-Trask for how she handled the situation.
“I think last year she had a lot of things thrown at her,” he said. “There was a lot of legislative action that required representation from off-county interest and she was very proficient in meeting those needs.”
Jones recently joined Owens-Trask and other local business leaders on a trip to Fruita, where Owens-Trask presented Moffat County’s economic outlook to Gov. John Hickenlooper. Jones said in situations like those she has a knack for being prepared.
“She does seem very organized and she seems to be very well-connected throughout the state, in terms of knowing who to talk to and when to talk to them,” Jones said.
“I think she’s very task-oriented and once the board sets the objectives, she’s very good at setting out plans of how to achieve those objectives and what those plans look like. Her task management is very good.”
Owens-Trask said one of the biggest challenges of her professional life is balancing the rigors of work and home.
That EDP is a part-time position does allow for some flexibility, though.
“I have two teenage boys and I am enormously proud of them,” Owens-Trask said. “Being their mother is the most important job I’ve had.”
Still, there are tradeoffs.
The Hickenlooper meeting, for instance, caused her to miss her sons’ hockey games. But, Owens-Trask is a professional, and she said sometimes her job entails missing a game here and there.
“If I feel like I’m doing that for something that is important, like jobs in Moffat County, then it’s an OK tradeoff every now and then,” she said.
While the economy has changed and presented new challenges for EDP, the organization has continued to be successful under Owens-Trask.
“I think by virtue of the fact that, in my opinion, it’s an excellent and dedicated board, we’ve had some continuity in staffing and we have some stability in our funding from the city of Craig and recently a bit more funding from Moffat County, and we have a group of local businesses that have supported us staunchly,” Owens-Trask said.
“We’ve put some good programs out that have helped folks and I think we are seen right now as being a strong community partner.”
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