Bennet Holds Roundtable Discussion with Northwest Colorado Leaders on Economic Transition and Growth Opportunities

Input from Community Leaders Will Inform Bennet’s Proposal to Provide Lasting Assistance to Communities Facing Declining Revenues

Colorado Springs –– Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet held a roundtable discussion in Craig with the Northwest Colorado Development Council and local leaders on his proposal to boost economic opportunities in rural communities like those in Northwest Colorado facing fiscal challenges due to declining revenues. Bennet heard feedback from county and municipal leaders from Moffat, Routt, and Rio Blanco counties on his proposal to invest in economic development and diversification, capacity building, and core public services in rural communities. 

“When I’ve visited Craig and Northwest Colorado over the years, I’ve heard concerns about what coal mine and power plant closures will do to our main streets, schools, hospitals, and way of life,” said Bennet. “That’s why, in partnership with the community, I am developing  legislation that would create a long-term sustainable source of funding dedicated to community revitalization, which could be a meaningful part of the solution. I held the discussion to gather feedback on this proposal and learn more about the pressing needs in the region. I’m grateful to the community leaders who shared their thoughts and perspectives.”

"Tri-County leaders met with Senator Bennet to discuss how we can achieve an economic future that honors traditional industry and land uses that have built the communities and landscapes we all enjoy today, while embracing an economic future that supports our core services and offers new opportunities into the future,” said Melody Villard, Moffat County Commissioner. “We intend to continue to work with Senator Bennet to support proposals that benefit our region. We believe his endowment concept has the opportunity to do just that."

“The Senator’s National Transition Endowment and Community Revitalization Corporation proposal puts a focus on communities like those in NW Colorado and is a clear indication he is thinking broadly about our region,” said Tim Redmond, Northwest Colorado Development Council Chair and Routt County Commissioner. “I am grateful for the attention he is showing to our challenges. I believe we must think regionally about sustainable and long-term community development and I look forward to continue working with the Senator to advance these shared goals.”

“Having lived in Craig for over two decades, I’ve seen the community show its resilience,” said Jarrod Ogden, Mayor of Craig. “It’s often felt like the deck is stacked against us. But the challenges we face will not be addressed without a willingness to work together with regional, state and federal representatives. Senator Bennet has stepped up and proposed a federally-chartered national transition endowment that can bring real and lasting resources to Craig. I thank the Senator for sharing his proposal and will continue to work with him to move it forward.”

“We thank Senator Bennet for meeting with the leaders in our region,” said Zach Wuestewald, Mayor of Hayden. “In Hayden, we have been leading along with our partners in this transition as we tackle the issues of climate change, coal transition, and how we do this in an equitable way to ensure everyone benefits. Hayden has a beautiful new school and a growing community, but that new school was built leveraging both state grant funding along with a voter-approved $22.3 million bond that is 55% dependent on the Hayden Station. Our fire district, library district, and all special districts in our region rely on this asset to provide property taxes. While we are deeply concerned about this transition, we recognize this is a unique opportunity to move forward for our community and lead by example for Northwest Colorado. The proposal we discussed with the Senator could truly be the difference in enabling our community to access the necessary resources to sustain and grow with a partnership not a mandate.”

Bennet’s proposal would establish a National Transition Endowment & Community Revitalization Corporation designed specifically for communities who have historically relied on fossil fuel energy extraction and production. It would establish a new permanent endowment fund and federally chartered non-governmental organization (NGO) — the Community Revitalization Corporation — to support transition planning, economic development and diversification, capacity building, and core public services in these communities. Bennet began work on the proposal after meeting with Moffat and Rio Blanco county leadership in February 2020 to discuss their current and future challenges due to the loss of a significant tax base and declining fossil fuel revenues. Bennet intends to incorporate feedback from the roundtable into a discussion draft that will be released later this year.

In January, Bennet sent a letter urging the Director of the U.S. Domestic Policy Council Susan Rice and the Director of the U.S. Economic Council Brian Deese to increase investment in, expand access to, and improve the delivery of federal funding for rural communities going through energy transitions in a future economic recovery package to spur growth and create jobs. In 2020, Bennet introduced the RESILIENT Act to empower rural communities to upgrade their infrastructure by expanding technical assistance, strengthening local capacity, and simplifying access to various federal funding streams. In 2017, Bennet introduced the Coal Community Empowerment Act to spur investment, workforce training, economic growth, and job creation in rural communities in Colorado and across the United States.