Garfield invests $150,000 in regional jobs programs

Concerned about continuing high unemployment, Garfield County commissioners on Monday committed $150,000 to three local economic development efforts and a western Colorado youth job program.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to contribute $25,000 apiece to the Carbondale Economic Development Partnership and the Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp., and $20,000 to the Roaring Fork Business Resource Center.

They also voted to spend $80,000 for the summer to hire two youth/young adult work crews through the Western Colorado Conservation Corps for projects such as trail work and tamarisk removal.

The county has been working on economic development and considering how to evaluate applications for funding and seek contractual assurances from recipients. But Commissioner Mike Samson said Monday, “I think it’s time to move and get going.”

The county’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 9.4 percent in April.

Dale Hancock, who heads the county’s economic development efforts, said something to keep in mind in pursuing new jobs is their pay.

Low-paying jobs would result in workers still being eligible for public assistance, at a cost to the county, he said.

But Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said the county already is being heavily affected by the unemployed, spending about $1 million a month on human services, mostly for food stamps.

“It’s … very drastic, what’s going on in our county,” he said.

Dave Weimer, president of the Carbondale partnership and an investment adviser, said he’s seen a “sickening” amount of people having to raid their retirement funds.

His group also has received $20,000 from the town of Carbondale. It is seeking to attract new businesses.

The Roaring Fork Business Resource Center doesn’t recruit businesses to the area. Instead, it focuses on helping new and existing businesses keep jobs and create new ones.

“We think we’ve made a difference. There are jobs that we have helped businesses create and retain,” said Randi Lowenthal, head of the center.

The Rifle group is focusing on new companies and helping existing ones.

Julie Bjurstrom, the organization’s manager, said it already has heard from about 10 existing businesses.

“They’re coming to us, saying we’re interested in growing, exporting product, building a bigger facility,” she said.


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