Federal Grants Will Help Communities Attract New Businesses, Create New Jobs, and Diversify Local Economy
Denver — Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper and Colorado Governor Jared Polis welcomed $8.5 million in grants from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to support economic diversification efforts in coal communities in Northwest Colorado.
“When I’ve visited communities in Northwest Colorado over the years, I’ve heard concerns about what coal mine and power plant closures will mean for their main streets, schools, and way of life,” said Bennet. “These federal grants will help coal communities like Craig and Hayden attract new businesses, create new jobs, and diversify their local economies so they can thrive.”
“When we visited Craig and Hayden this spring, we heard how important it is to diversify rural economies and create new jobs. Our Northwest Colorado communities are full of entrepreneurs and this EDA funding will help build even more resilience and create new opportunities in the region,” said Hickenlooper.
“These federal grants will help create over 200 new good-paying jobs in Craig and Hayden and boost Colorado’s strong economy, and we appreciate Secretary Raimondo for supporting Colorado communities,” said Polis. “We recently made it nearly free to start a business, and these federal grants build on our work supporting hardworking Coloradans and expanding economic growth across our state.”
“President Biden is committed to ensuring that our coal communities are provided with the resources they need to diversify and grow their economies,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “Through the American Rescue Plan Coal Communities Commitment and the Assistance to Coal Communities program, these EDA investments will create new opportunities for economic and industry diversification in Northwest Colorado.”
The EDA’s $8.5 million in grants will invest in two communities in Northwest Colorado:
- Craig, Colorado will receive a $3.3 million grant to construct a multi-use park and river access corridor along the Yampa River to boost tourism and outdoor recreation. This EDA investment will be matched by $1.4 million in state and local funds and is expected to create 129 jobs and generate $16.3 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates.
- Hayden, Colorado will receive a $5.2 million grant for roadway and water infrastructure to support development of an industrial park that will bring new businesses to the region. This EDA investment will be matched by $712,341 in state and local funds and is expected to create 79 jobs and generate $12 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates.
The Craig project is funded under EDA’s Assistance to Coal Communities (ACC) initiative, through which funds are awarded on a competitive basis to assist communities severely impacted by the declining use of coal. ACC projects support economic diversification, job creation, capital investment, workforce development, and re-employment opportunities.
The Hayden project is funded under EDA’s American Rescue Plan Economic Adjustment Assistance program, which makes $500 million in Economic Adjustment Assistance grants available to American communities. The Economic Adjustment Assistance program is EDA’s most flexible program, and grants made under this program will help hundreds of communities across the nation plan, build, innovate, and put people back to work through construction or non-construction projects designed to meet local needs.
What They’re Saying
Steamboat Pilot & Today: ‘Once in a lifetime’: Hayden gets $5.2 million to diversify economy as plant closure looms
By Dylan Anderson
The town of Hayden will receive $5.2 million in federal grant funding for a regional industrial park project that hopes to lesson impacts as the Hayden Station shutters by the end of the decade.
The U.S. Department of Commerce announced Tuesday, Aug. 9, that Hayden and neighboring Craig — another community in the shadow of a soon-to-close coal-fired power plant — would receive a total of $8.5 million that was directed toward coal communities in the American Rescue Plan.
The award to Hayden is enough to bring the planned industrial park near the Yampa Valley Regional Airport to full funding, said town manager Mathew Mendisco.
“This business park, we believe, is going to be almost like the change agent for the valley,” Mendisco said. “It’s going to give the opportunity for a lot of local businesses to expand where they may not have been able to.”
The industrial park project started as one facet of a proposal to get grant money through the Build Back Better Regional Challenge in a similar vein as a project in Sheridan, Wyoming, that helped diversify its economy, which was similarly based on extraction and tourism industries.
The regional proposal ultimately wasn’t chosen, but Mendisco kept the project alive and shifted to pursue funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
“We’ve been working really hard for this,” Mendisco said. “It’s going to centrally locate a lot of businesses, which will be a benefit for the entire valley.”
The grant will fund infrastructure like roads, water and sewer on the property officially annexed into the town last week. The idea is that the parcels could be ready-made for a business to buy or lease and then build what their business would need.
The goal of the industrial park is to offer local companies looking to grow their operation an option to stay in the Yampa Valley. While attracting a new company isn’t a bad thing, Mendisco said the project is really centered around retaining and expanding businesses that are already here.
“As we are transitioning away from coal in the valley, it’s a step in the right direction for the community of Hayden to expand economically,” said Mayor Zach Wuestewald. “As we lose a huge economic driver in the future, we all got to find ways to weather the storm economically.”
Wuestewald emphasized that there is still a lot of work to do before Hayden has a certain future as it prepares for the closing of the Hayden Station — the Xcel Energy owned power plant that is slated to close by the end of 2028.
Entities like the school, fire and library district in Hayden currently get between 55% and 65% of their funding from property taxes paid by the power plant.
“It’s going to be a big deal when we lose the tax revenue that we’re going to lose,” Wuestewald said. “There is no answer, but having somewhat of a blueprint is reassuring.”
The money comes from the EDA’s American Rescue Plan Economic Adjustment Assistance program, which offered $500 million in these grants to communities across the country.
Mendisco referred to it as a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” because this particular program allows for a less significant match in funding locally. Had Hayden needed to match half the $5.2 million grant, Mendisco said the project likely wouldn’t have been possible for the town of 2,000 residents.
The federal government’s $5.2 million is being matched by more than $700,000 in local and state funding and is estimated to produce almost 80 jobs and about $12 million in private investment.
“When I’ve visited communities in Northwest Colorado over the years, I’ve heard concerns about what coal mine and power plant closures will mean for their main streets, schools, and way of life,” said U.S Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, in a statement about the funding.
“These federal grants will help coal communities like Craig and Hayden attract new businesses, create new jobs, and diversify their local economies so they can thrive,” he continued.
Mendisco said the next step in the project is to officially purchase the land in question using money the town already had from the Colorado Office of Just Transition. That office was formed to help communities losing significant parts of their economy as Colorado set some of the most aggressive emission reduction goals in the country.
The plan is to have design work completed by the end of December so the project could be put out for bid sometime in January, he said.
“This project was meant for business retention and expansion locally,” Mendisco said. “To create more jobs here sustainably and we can invest in the future and the businesses that are already here.”