Satellite SBCD office to aid region in shift from coal

Home » News & Media » Satellite SBCD office to aid region in shift from coal

Satellite SBCD office to aid region in shift from coal

Date: 02/22/2024     Category: News & Media     Author: Dennis Webb     Publication: The Daily Sentinel    

Original Post

FILE PHOTO – Tri-State’s Craig Station power plant, seen here in January 2023.
Amber Delay/Craig Press

State Coal Transition Community funding will be used to create a Northwest Small Business Development Center satellite office to serve Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties as local communities in that region look to diversify their economies.

According to a news release from the office of Gov. Jared Polis and state Office of Economic Development & International Trade (OEDIT), the initiative is among efforts by the Polis administration, OEDIT and the state Office of Just Transition to help communities that have relied on coal mines and coal-fired power plants find new sources of jobs and property tax income. The three counties are home to four coal mines and two coal-fired power plants, and those plants are scheduled to close in coming years, which will result in significant losses in plant and mining jobs and in property tax revenue.

According to the release, an Office of Just Transition survey last year of coal-industry workers in the region found 19% already operate a small business, 21% expressed interest in training or starting a new business, and 46% expressed interest in small business training and assistance for their partner or an immediate family member.

“In Colorado, small businesses employ nearly half of all our employees, and in our rural communities, that percentage is often higher. Entrepreneurs and small businesses are truly an economic driver for our state, and we’re pleased to expand support that can help northwest Colorado support the growth of its small businesses,” OEDIT Executive Director Eve Lieberman said in the release.

The Northwest SBDC plans to provide additional, dedicated on-the-ground support through the creation of an office to serve a region geographically separated from the rest of the 10-county Northwest SBDC service area, according to the release.

Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today
Steam rises from the Craig Station just west of Craig, as seen from an EcoFlight tour in February 2022, of the Yampa Valley. Officials are bracing for the closure of the station and the Colowyo Mine that supplies it in 2030, and what that means for the economy of Craig and Moffat County, which has been reliant on the coal industry.

Alissa Johnson with OEDIT told the Sentinel that the state Economic Development Commission this month approved $100,000 for the first year of operations for the satellite office, with an additional $100,000 available for the second year.

“After the first year, OEDIT staff will evaluate the impact of these new services and provide a recommendation to the EDC on whether the second year of funding should be made available,” she said.

The satellite office will be managed by one staff member and a team of contract consultants, with additional support coming from the Northwest SBDC and the state SBDC network. Among the services will be one-on-one training and consulting, and businesses also will be referred to free online trainings on topics such as business planning, formation, finance, marketing and human resources. In-person training will be provided based on demand, and at least once a month.

Previous Coal Transition Community funding has been awarded to northwest Colorado in coordination with the Office of Just Transition to support things such as expansion efforts at Pioneers Medical Center in Meeker, business support programs in Yampa, a proposed pumped storage hydropower project near Craig and South Routt Medical Center in Oak Creek.