Tri-State Generation brings grant-writing support to Craig to aid in coal transition
Editor’s note: this story has been updated to correct a job title.
After listening to what community partners say Craig needs to endure the upcoming transition away from coal, Tri-State Generation will be bringing in additional grant-writing support to supplement existing efforts.
Tri-State Generation and leadership from the Craig Station power plant met with community stakeholders on Thursday, Dec. 8, to announce the scope of the grant-writing services Tri-State is bringing to help Craig prepare for the transition.
The three coal-powered energy generating stacks are set to be retired in 2025, 2028 and 2030, along with the coal mine that feeds them. While it may be rumored that the sunset dates will be extended, Tri-State officials have said the mandates to sunset coal-power generation are coming down from the federal level.
Community leaders have been working proactively for the past four years to plan for the plant’s closure, but there is still much work to be done to get projects off the ground that will have a regional impact and help diversify Moffat County’s economy.
Tri-State officials announced on Thursday that they are bringing in The Ferguson Group, a consulting firm that works out of Washington, D.C., to help local entities get access to more federal grant dollars to aid in the transition.
“We’ve been talking for years about what services we need in the community,” former Craig Station Plant Manager Rich Thompson said. “What we found is we need a dedicated grant writer for the community that can support multiple interests and organizations.”
Lane Dickson and Catherine Minerich, representatives for the Ferguson Group, spoke about how the firm can help with all phases of grant work — from the development and planning of a project to the actual grant writing.
The purpose of the presentation was to introduce the scope of services that the Ferguson Group can provide in Craig, and for Dickson and Minerich to get a sense of where the community is in terms of planning and grant readiness.
“We focus on preparation first and foremost,” Dickson said, adding that 80% of grant writing is preparing for a project up front with the actual grant writing being a final step in the process.
Working out of Washington, the Ferguson Group can more easily advocate for local initiatives at the federal level, too. Sasha Nelson, the dean of workforce education and economic development at Colorado Northwest Community College, said she was involved in six different federal funding initiatives for local projects last year and all of them failed.
“While it was humbling,” Nelson said, “what it taught us is that we didn’t have adequate advocacy at the top.”
Dickson and Minerich stressed that federal funding prioritizes projects that are collaborative and address the needs of multiple agencies to have a large regional impact.
The conversation revolved closely around the need to replace the high-paying jobs tied to coal and boost the local tax base by replacing revenues that will be lost with the mine and power plant closures, as well as housing.
“The community is interested in jobs and the tax base,” Thompson said. “If you can solve that problem, everyone will be on board. It doesn’t matter how we get there.”
Shannon Scott, Craig’s economic development manager, spoke briefly about the work that is being done to develop infrastructure and attract developers for housing. Though the city has had success earning grant funding for infrastructure development, more funding can always help, Scott said.
Several local officials agreed, saying that while housing and jobs go hand in hand, Moffat County’s most urgent needs are developing jobs and diversifying the economy.
A lot of the studies and planning that federal programs will require for funding have already been done. What community leaders asked for on Thursday was help getting the projects started and implemented.
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