Since the announcement of the New Horizon Mine closure (which happened on Jan. 24) and the Tri-State Generation and Transmission power plant in Nucla by 2022, many have questioned how the West End economy will sustain itself. Deana Sheriff, director of the West End Economic Development Corporation, said three major programs are now underway to help boost the economy there.
First is a focus on small business development. Sheriff said efforts are being focused to attract new entrepreneurs and to support emerging businesses in the West End. Now, the area has a certified small business development center, with classes and resources to find available funding.
According to her, 12 new businesses are emerging in the West End right now.
Secondly, WEEDC is emphasizing outdoor recreation and tourism, especially promoting area trails. Now, WEEDC is working to hire an outdoor recreation coordinator to work with local trails groups and also focus on marketing.
Agriculture is the third piece, she said, and WEEDC is working with local meat producers — of beef, lamb and other animals — and a feasibility study is in the works to see if a meat processing facility in this area is needed.
“We need the numbers before we pursue that,” she said. “But we are doing all kinds of things to support the local foods network, keeping it as close as we can.”
Sheriff said already, WEEDC is working on arrangements with local schools to create local food partnerships. She said the Local Food Initiative and the FRESH Food Hub are supporting those efforts.
Similarly, through grant funding which WEEDC helped secure, a grain mill in Norwood will be established this spring. The mill, Sheriff said, will support the heritage grain program that Blue Grouse Bread has envisioned.
“We just ordered the mill, and it should be here by the end of March,” she said. “Now producers growing grain don’t have to go to Limon; there is a local place.”
In other West End news, she said Colt Care, the West End’s new and only daycare center, is set to open any day — a celebration, she said, for working families.
Additionally, Main Street upgrades are also on the way for both Naturita and Nucla. Last year, WEEDC used the University Technical Assistance program to get masters level students to create downtown designs for both municipalities.
Naturita chose a mining theme; Nucla, a western one.
Sheriff said WEEDC will now seek funding to execute those ideas and improve the look of both towns, and Norwood will be included next in the downtown design process.
Additionally, for 2018 Vista Realty reported its best year in a decade. At the same time, a recent housing study indicated at least 20 housing units are needed currently in the West End. Officials plan to now look at how to move forward with the housing data.
Sheriff said all the happenings indicate that West End communities will not dissolve but rather move forward. She said people are seeing how attractive and low-cost the area is, and they’re enthusiastic about the broadband internet available.
All of the office suites in the West End’s co-working space have been rented.
According to her, representatives from the Department of Local Affairs are paying attention to what is happening in the West End.
“They’re recognizing us because we look at what fits within our community — We took what is right for us and are building on it, not trying to make it Boulder or Moab,” she said. “This is so exciting right now, it makes the hair stand up on my arms.”