Federal, state, local officials discuss Northwest Colorado economy
State and federal officials, including a senior policy adviser to the president, were in Craig Wednesday to discuss economic development resources available to Northwest Colorado.
Hosted by Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership, the roundtable discussion focused on collaboration between local, state and federal entities with the goal of ensuring strong economic futures.
“This was an effort to understand resources and to just tell our story briefly, what our economy looks like and the challenges we have,” said Audrey Danner, CMEDP executive director.
Representatives from Craig City Council, Moffat County Commission, Craig Chamber of Commerce and Moffat County Tourism Association were joined by local government officials from Routt and Rio Blanco counties at the summit.
Visiting federal agencies included the Economic Development Administration, Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, Labor and Energy, Employment and Training Administration and Small Business Administration.
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At the state level, panelists represented the Department of Local Affairs, Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Small Business Development Center, Department of Labor and Employment and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Gov. John Hickenlooper had a staff member in the audience as well.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, helped arrange the workshop by connecting the Washington, D.C., officials to Northwest Colorado.
“These are complex and challenging issues, and local leaders have done an incredible job keeping the community connected and making progress,” Bennet said in a statement. “We are happy that the administration came to Craig (Wednesday) to listen to serious thoughts, concerns and ideas and to discuss potential opportunities and resources.”
According to a news release from CMEDP, Jason Walsh, senior policy advisor in the Executive Office of the President, said the purpose of the meeting was to learn about the region’s challenges and provide information about programs geared toward economic growth.
“I’m impressed by leadership in this community,” Walsh said in the news release. “Where these conversations are successful is where they are catalytic.”
Many of the grant prospects discussed fell under President Barack Obama’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative, which is the first portion of a larger plan designed to aide communities affected by declines in the coal industry and power sector.
Under the initiative, Moffat County received $50,000 on a matching grant from the EDA for the purpose of performing an economic assessment and conducting a market study.
Craig Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Oxley said one of the advantages of having state and federal agencies visit Northwest Colorado was meeting the people in a position to help the region accomplish its goals for economic development.
“I think the biggest benefit is really putting a face with the projects that we’re considering, with our opportunities,” she said. “So when we talk to somebody about a grant or an opportunity, they’ve been to our community. They know who we are.”
On Tuesday, voters in Craig and Moffat County approved two initiatives geared toward strengthening the economy — forming a Local Marketing District to collect money for promotion of the county and overriding a state law that limits the development of telecommunications infrastructure.
The community’s constant engagement and effort in the economic development process should be encouraging for the state and federal officials, Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe said.
“So many communities kind of stick their head in the sand and don’t believe what’s happening,” he said. “We’re being pretty proactive. That shows a lot, and that will help us in the long run.”
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