Our View: Stake in development
Members of the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership took an important step in meeting their long-term goals by asking nonmember business owners why they haven’t joined.
The invitation resulted in a frank discussion that gave EDP members some insight into how the organization is perceived throughout the business community. And that should help them modify an awareness campaign that could make their job a little easier down the line.
They learned that some small business owners don’t understand what the EDP does or how their dues will result in direct benefits to their business. They also learned that going through two directors in three years has some business owners wondering about the stability of the organization.
Despite the fact that Tom Flavin resigned as executive director of the EDP in March, the group is still very active and seeking a replacement. They’ve accomplished much, especially during Flavin’s tenure, and they simply have to do a better job of publicizing their achievements.
As the nonmembers indicated, it’s difficult to buy into a vision if you don’t know what the vision is.
To the EDP’s credit, members know that communication is one of their biggest challenges. They have a communications committee whose chief mission is to educate the community about why the EDP’s work is important.
Much of their work has been analyzing the area’s economic strengths and focusing on ways to enhance business opportunities in the county. For example, the EDP has initiated a collaboration with Club 20 to identify funding for rural transportation projects, complete a telecommunications infrastructure inventory and determine levels of financial support for the regional airport in Hayden.
They’ve also secured a USDA grant that they’ve disseminated locally to entrepreneurs who asked for help in starting or improving a business.
They’ve started gathering data about the region’s competitiveness and how existing transportation and utilities can be leveraged to attract new businesses.
Scott Cook, the EDP board chairman, is fond of saying that a rising tide lifts all boats. It’s a simplistic way of saying that investing in the EDP’s long-term vision will come back to benefit all business owners. If the EDP is successful in recruiting new businesses or revitalizing the downtown area and strengthening the local economy, all business stand to benefit. So all businesses should feel like they have a stake in the EDP’s success.
But to accomplish its goals, the EDP needs money. Recruiting new members is a way of raising more money through membership fees.
The EDP represents about 30 local small businesses that contribute membership fees. That constitutes about 17 percent of the EDP’s membership, but group members would like to see that small-business segment grow to 40 percent or 50 percent of the group’s membership.
Other funding comes from local governments, oil and gas companies, banks and nonprofit organizations.
We hope that local small business owners will make an effort to learn more about the EDP, not only because the EDP needs to improve its membership numbers to succeed, but also because new members can bring important ideas to the table.
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