Northwest Colorado leaders discuss boosting economic development | CraigDailyPress.com

Northwest Colorado leaders discuss boosting economic development

'How long does economic development take?'

Janelle O'Dea

John Cody, left, and Frank Gray give a presentation to a room full of Northwest Colorado community leaders about economic development.

— Community leaders from Craig, Hayden, Meeker, Steamboat Springs and Rangely entered Colorado Northwestern Community College on Wednesday with diversified ideas about economic development.

By the end of a 2 1/2-hour presentation, the definition of economic development morphed into different concepts.

Two Front Range economists visited Craig to share their knowledge on the topic.

President and Chief Executive Officer of Castle Rock Economic Development Frank Gray and Economic Development Director for the city of Thornton John Cody gave a presentation on how to improve economic development efforts.

Several prominent community members and officials, including Craig City Manager Jim Ferree, Craig Mayor Terry Carwile, Moffat County Commissioner-Elect Frank Moe and Craig City Council members Tony Bohrer, Don Jones and Ray Beck, among many others, attended the presentation.

It also functioned as a forum for community members to air concerns and ask questions about how to make economic development more successful in Northwest Colorado.

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Gray started the discussion by outlining the presentation.

"This is not a silver bullet," Gray said, explaining that there’s not a simple solution to boosting the economy. "We're here to spark conversation.”

Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership Executive Director Audrey Danner, as well as Tammie Thompson-Booker, director of sales and marketing for Parker-based Mars Hospitality, asked questions and shared concerns alongside several other community members.

Thompson-Booker asked how long a business should have to wait for results while continuing to invest in economic development. Many community members had the exact same question: "How long does economic development take?”

Gray and Cody said they couldn't remember a deal they'd closed in less than one year, and economic development takes time.

Danner told the Craig Daily Press that because of the amount of time it takes to find a business, develop a relationship with that business and recruit them to come to Craig, recruitment is a low spot on the CMEDP priority list.

"It's never been off of our task list, but it's not Priority 1, and it's a simple matter of time and dollars," Danner said.

She also said the fact that CMEDP has only two part-time staffers (herself and Steve Fulton, coordinator for the Craig Business Success Center) makes it difficult to provide services for already-established businesses while recruiting new ones.

"We've got to work with what we have, but honestly, it has to be lower priority at this point because it’s one or two or five years to make that happen," Danner said.

Thompson-Booker agreed with what might be considered the crux of the economic development problem.

"We're not paying someone enough to want to come and do it full-time and stay," Thompson-Booker said.

Pam Foster, Craig community member and owner of Pam Design Interiors, said she sees issues beyond the economic development staffing.

Gray and Cody suggested that community members step up and become "champions" to create and sustain businesses in the area.

"We seem, in this community, to have resistance in getting behind that champion," Foster said.

Cody asked why Foster thought such resistance exists in Craig.

"A lack of education," Foster responded. "We have not identified what their (business) needs are. Some of it is a fear of change."

Gray and Cody concluded the presentation by assuring that nothing would change if resources did not match up with expectations or if the community did not fully commit to economic development.

Moe declared that when he takes office as Moffat County commissioner in January, he would work to make economic development happen for Northwest Colorado.

"Let's commit to a plan," Moe said. "And let's commit the funds to do it well."

Contact Janelle O’Dea at 970-875-1795 or jodea@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.