Optimism mounts for future of Craig at State of the Community | CraigDailyPress.com

Optimism mounts for future of Craig at State of the Community

At Wednesday night's State of the Community event at the Clarion Inn & Suites in Craig
Lauren Blair

2016 Honorees

Businessperson of the Year: Dale Camp, Great Divide Cleaning Service

Business of the Year: Bank of Colorado

Special Recognition: Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership

At Wednesday night’s State of the Community event at the Clarion Inn & Suites in Craig, community members gathered to hear updates from local officials and business people as well as keynote speakers who shared a State of the Economy address. Laura Rodriguez, from Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade, shared insights from two rural communities — Durango and Salida — that have thrived in recent years.
Lauren Blair

— Craig is on the brink of a major chapter of growth and prosperity, according to projections from city, county and local business leaders at the State of the Community event Wednesday night.

Craig and Moffat County bigwigs turned out in force to hear updates on Craig’s economy and where the city is headed, and also to honor the Craig Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 award winners.

“I am convinced that economic development is a little like getting into the jet stream,” Memorial Regional Health CEO Andy Daniels told the crowd. “Once you’re in the jet stream… away you go. I’m also convinced your attitude has lot to do with getting into the jet stream.”

Community leaders were brimming with optimism, including Craig City Manager Mike Foreman, despite the failure of the city’s sales and use tax measure in Tuesday’s election.

“The No. 1 priority for Craig is economic development and creating new jobs and new opportunities here,” Foreman said, who gave the State of the City address. “I believe we’re right on the cusp of blowing up.”

Moffat County Assessor Chuck Cobb offered a dose of reality in his State of the County address with sobering news of yet more revenue declines.

Colorado is reducing residential assessment rates due to explosive growth on the Front Range, and preliminary numbers suggest the county could lose around $773,000 in tax revenues due to the change, Cobb said.

Nonetheless, better news is on the horizon with up to $1 million in tax revenues expected from the TransWest Express transmission lines once operational — likely not for several years — and the development of Colowyo Coal Mine’s Collom pit.

Crews will break ground on the recently approved expansion next week, Colowyo Manager Chris McCourt announced. The project will create about 60 additional contract jobs for the next year and a half, with the pit becoming operational in 2019. The expansion lies almost completely within Moffat County instead of neighboring Rio Blanco County, meaning more tax revenue for Moffat.

Promotion and development efforts are also full steam ahead for the chamber, which hosts the annual event in partnership with KRAI.

Chamber board member Chris Nichols announced a slate of new and ongoing projects, including a community branding campaign, creating new content for a local cable station, and a new shop-local program dubbed Homegrown.

Finally, a report from keynote speaker Brian Lewandowski from the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business revealed both bright spots and challenges for the county.

“Moffat County is lagging the state and lagging the rest of (Colorado’s) rural region in growth but is still outperforming the rest of the U.S.,” he said, noting that while local jobs are fewer, average wages are at an all-time high.

Check out the Craig Daily Press’ video featuring this year’s award winners.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1795 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBNews.

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