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Small businesses in Glenwood Springs can apply for a low interest loan through the city

Glenwood Springs is offering a new loan opportunity for small businesses through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

“I want to make the loan process easy, not scary,” said Danielle Campbell, economic development specialist for the city. 

The Revolving Loan Fund will provide low-interest financing options to small business owners operating within city limits for the following purposes: fire suppression systems, working capital needs or operational costs, acquiring or rehabilitation of fixtures, furniture or equipment, property rehabilitation, site improvements and limited new construction projects.

Eligible business owners must send pre-application materials for initial review before they submit an application, but it is strongly recommended to call Campbell before starting the application.

“My goal is getting people to reach out,” she said.

Loan amounts will be between $5,000 and $40,000, or 50% of the total project costs. There will be annual interest rates around 3% with a repayment term of up to seven years.

“I would almost consider myself more of a facilitator,” she said. “I’m always the person that talks with the businesses, one on one experts, helping them through the loan application, answering those specific questions and then connecting them.” 

To be eligible, businesses must be registered with the Colorado Secretary of State, and hold an active business license with the city of Glenwood Springs. Businesses must have gross revenues of less than $1 million and fewer than 50 employees.

The Revolving Fund Loan Review Committee meets monthly. Applicants can expect to hear about next steps within four to six weeks of submitting an application.

“It’s a group of people that are all local bankers and business people that essentially will review it,” she said about the review committee. “All those people are local folks that are here to support local businesses, and they’re all from a variety of the different banking institutions as well as businesses in Glenwood Springs.” 

Businesses should not fear the application process, as it might make for a good starting point for other opportunities.

“One of the benefits, I would say, is having all of these kinds of people at the table at the end of the day, even if this one doesn’t make the right fit,” she said. “There’s guaranteed someone, or someone who can connect them with an additional resource that’s probably a better fit for them.”

Marijuana retailers are currently not eligible for the program, and the funds are not eligible for agricultural production. There are also specific requirements for new construction projects.

“That’s all requirements from the USDA that we have to follow to utilize this money,” she said. 

Campbell also asked for people to contact her early in the application process in case she is able to help them find better resources for businesses like the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments or other grants like the Glenwood Springs Downtown Development Authority facade grant

“There are resources out there,” she said. “We’re just connecting folks with the right things.”

Danielle Campbell can be reached at 970-384-6424 or rlf@cogs.us.

Hiring hassles challenge Glenwood Springs businesses

Glenwood Springs is an ever-growing city, but growth is hard when businesses can’t hire people to work for them. 

“According to Indeed analytics, we’re in a 99% hardest to hire area,” said Glenwood Springs Jimmy John’s franchise owner Matthew Spidell.

Almost every industry in Glenwood Springs is feeling understaffed and struggling to hire the ideal amount of employees, from the local food industry to police officers and engineers. 

A lot of businesses and government organizations are raising their pay to accommodate housing or commuting costs. Colorado minimum wage is $12.56 an hour, yet the companies Zippia, Ziprecruiter and Indeed all have data that says the average pay for an entry level job in Colorado is $16 and the average entry level pay in Glenwood is $17.

High Country Gems and Minerals owner Patti “Rock Star” Neuroth said she recently raised her pay and started posting it. That has helped bring more people in to apply. 

“I gave everybody raises because they deserve it, but it is one of those things that’s part of the picture,” she said. “People need more money, so you raise that, too, hoping that that would be enough to attract somebody.”

Finding people who are actually a good fit for the job is now one of the biggest challenges for Neuroth. She said that people used to come in and apply for the job because they were passionate about rocks and gems, but now they have to screen their interviews better to make sure people will be able to keep up with the knowledge required to work in the store. 

Visitors shop at High Country Gems and Minerals in downtown Glenwood Springs on Monday afternoon.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The Glenwood Springs Police Department is also having trouble finding officers. Although police retention has been low across the nation, Glenwood Springs has had additional challenges hiring officers. 

“Not new to our region are housing concerns,” Chief Joseph Deras wrote in an email. “We have also had candidates begin the hiring process, and when it looks like they will be successful, they start to consider housing. They have determined this to be an insurmountable challenge and have withdrawn their application.”

With these challenges, the city has kept the wages at the same rate as other regional offices, but Deras is determined to maintain the integrity of the reputation of the Glenwood police force.

“I refuse to lower our high standards for the sake of hosting another police car on the road handling calls for service,” he wrote.

Spidell said he has employees who commute from Parachute and Rifle, and even one employee who commuted from Grand Junction last year. He said hiring for employees has been brutal for the company.

Spidell, a member of the Glenwood Springs ad hoc committee on creating affordable workforce housing, said he has created individual incentives for his employees to accommodate whatever they need.

“Being involved and truly caring about people helps the most,” Spidell wrote in an email.

Preliminary oil and gas regulation affects nearly 2 million acres of federal land, including Garfield County

Federal officials are considering whether most of nearly 2 million acres of surface lands — including a solid chunk of Garfield County — should remain open or closed to oil and gas leases.

Larry Sandoval, field manager for the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office, presented details on a court-ordered reevaluation of Resource Management Plans to the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board on Thursday.

The reevaluation stems from litigation in 2016, when Carbondale-based conservation watchdog Wilderness Workshop filed a lawsuit against the BLM. Wilderness Workshop argued the federal entity did not fully analyze and disclose environmental impacts resulting from a 2015 RMP, which opened thousands of acres to oil and gas production between the Colorado River Valley and Grand Junction field offices.

Litigation resulted in BLM having to broaden the range of alternatives for lands available for oil and gas development and provide air quality impacts from combustible greenhouse gasses based on all alternatives.

“There’s just shy of 2 million acres that basically speak to federal minerals,” Sandoval said.

This poses a huge strain on oil and gas revenue, the Garfield County Board of Commissioners recently argued in formal comments to the BLM Upper Colorado District last week. And, according to maps presented by Sandoval, there’s at least 689,400 acres of high to very high oil and gas potential in this area, with another 251,800 acres considered moderate potential.

Meanwhile, the new preliminary alternative — the most restrictive — attached to this supplemental environmental impact statement includes closing off 80% of about 1.94 million acres to oil and gas leases. It would focus on areas of low-moderate potential for oil and gas development.

“The preliminary issues we identified are, what are the environmental consequences — that downstream combustion?” Sandoval said. “Then the socio-economic impacts, because you’ve got Garfield County, who feels strongly about the importance of oil and gas leasing.” 

Sandoval said the planning process consists of receiving public comment and holding public meetings on the draft of the supplemental environmental impact statement in spring and summer of 2023. The final SEIS and decision is slated for 2024.

Garfield County Energy Advisory Board Member Jerry Seifert, also a Silt trustee, asked if public input has any influence on the final decision coming in 2024.

“I think the thing to focus on is there’s such good comments,” Sandoval said. “Those things that are more immediate, that we can chew on.”

rerku@postindependent.com

Commute times keep stretching for Glenwood Springs, Rifle residents

Commuting for work is common anywhere, but for people in Garfield County, those workday trips seem to be getting longer.

For Glenwood Springs residents alone, the average commute time has increased by 6 minutes from 2010 to 2020, according to U.S. Census data. The percentage of workers with a commute of 19 minutes or less dropped during the same period from 59.8% to 50.4%. Workers commuting 45 minutes or more nearly doubled from 16.2% in 2010 to 28.3% in 2020.


Glenwood Springs commute times20202010
Workers 16 years and over5,7645,829
Less than 10 minutes21.5%26.3%
10 to 14 minutes17.1%20.1%
15 to 19 minutes11.8%13.4%
20 to 24 minutes4.6%4.2%
25 to 29 minutes3.9%1.8%
30 to 34 minutes10%8.9%
35 to 44 minutes2.8%9%
45 to 59 minutes9.3%7.6%
60 or more minutes19%8.6%
Mean travel time to work (minutes)27.921.9
Source: U.S. Census data

“It feels like that disconnect between long commutes and your families is really impacting everybody,” Ryan Gordan, senior engineer at SGM and Glenwood Springs native running for Garfield County commissioner, said at an affordable housing roundtable discussion.

Gordon said his engineering firm struggles to find employees who want to move here since many of them will have to work in Glenwood and live in Rifle. 

For Rifle residents, the average commute time increased by 7.4 minutes from 2010 to 2020, according to U.S. Census data. The percentage of workers with a commute of 19 minutes or less dropped during the same period from 60.2% to 40.1%. Workers commuting 45 minutes or more increased from 20.7% in 2010 to 28.3% in 2020.


Rifle commute times20202010
Workers 16 years and over4,8094,497
Less than 10 minutes24.5%32.7%
10 to 14 minutes11.5%20.5%
15 to 19 minutes4.1%7%
20 to 24 minutes8.3%3.7%
25 to 29 minutes3.9%1.6%
30 to 34 minutes9.6%11.1%
35 to 44 minutes9.9%2.8%
45 to 59 minutes12.2%8.7%
60 or more minutes16.1%12%
Mean travel time to work (minutes)30.823.4
Source: U.S. Census data

Construction workers can face even greater difficulties, he said, since many live in Parachute and have to commute to Aspen regularly, since that’s where most of the work is. 

Others face the same dilemma: to live and work in Glenwood Springs and pay more, or pay less to live in New Castle, Rifle, Silt or Parachute, but spend more time traveling to and from work. 

Patti “Rock Star” Neuroth, the owner of High Country Gems and Minerals, said she had to raise her pay to accommodate either the average employee commute or the expensive rent costs in Glenwood.

One of her employees, Lina Cagle, works full-time at the shop and lives in Rifle. She said that she doesn’t always mind the commute, but it can be nerve-wracking in the winter and is costly with the price of gas now.

“Every week to two weeks I pay $60 to $80 to fill a Subaru Outback from empty to full,” Cagle said. 

Trinity Azucena Stebleton is the Latino outreach director for Garfield County Democrats, and she said she has been commuting from Silt to Glenwood Springs for years.

“I got stuck in the canyon for two hours when pregnant,” she said. “It’s dangerous and time-consuming for people to be constantly commuting through the canyon.” 

From 2009 to 2019 the number of people living in Glenwood Springs that are also employed in Glenwood has hardly grown, but the number of people employed in Glenwood, but living outside of the city has increased by more than 1,500 people, according to data by the U.S. Census Bureau.

“This is a regional issue,” Gordon said. “Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties need to work on this together. We all need to sit at the table and come together.”

cballard@postindependent.com

2022 sales tax revenues in Glenwood Springs on track to set new baseline

After rebounding from the pandemic in 2021, Glenwood Springs is still showing growth in sales tax revenue.

“I would say that 2022 is likely to establish a new base,” said Steve Boyd, acting city manager. “Through June and up to date, we’re up something like 7% against 2021 sales tax across the whole city.”

Revenue is up and not too surprising for city officials. 

“We always forecast a little bit below what we really think is going to happen, so the 7% growth is a little bit higher than we forecast, and it hasn’t surprised us.” Boyd said. “I don’t know if the second half will grow quite as much as the first half did, just based on some macro economic factors that we’re seeing.”

Boyd said that the forecast for 2022 is $21.6 million across all funds.  

“I think we’ll beat 2021 by about 5% at the end of the year,” Boyd said. 

Yet the accommodations tax, which was up more than 30% for the first two months of the year, dropped to 6% in April and 5% in May. 

“We’re up … 21% through May. We don’t have a good June number yet, but it probably won’t be quite as strong as 21%,” Boyd said about the accommodations tax. 

Marijuana sales tax revenue is one of the few categories to see a decline from 2021 so far this year, but Boyd said marijuana has been down in general.

“I mean, I think for the last year, it’s been pretty consistently down, and I don’t know exactly the reason for that,” he said.

The hotel and the motel category of sales taxes has also been doing pretty well, gaining more than 18% so far since 2021, yet hotels have not necessarily been busier than last year. 

“I think that’s mostly inflation and room rates. I don’t know that occupancy is necessarily up this year,” Boyd said.

Although rates have gone up significantly throughout the state since 2021, Glenwood Springs, Estes Park and Grand Junction have seen decreases in occupancy since last year, according to the 2022 June edition of the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report. 

“The 2022 average year-to-date occupancy in Glenwood Springs has decreased by a percentage point over 2021, but the average daily rate has increased by more than $22 during the same period,” said Lisa Langer, director of tourism in Glenwood Springs.

With the cost of building materials going up with inflation, sales tax for building materials is a larger category that has shown a good amount of growth in 2022. 

“Well, we had a good year in 2021. We’re measuring 2022 against what was a really strong year, so from a percentage perspective, it doesn’t seem that high, but that category has been performing well,” Boyd said about the building materials category. 

Canyon Crepes brings family feel to a quiet corner of West Glenwood

Two Glenwood Springs residents recently retired from the rafting life to help create community in West Glenwood — with crepes.

“We want it to be a space that people want to come and hang out in,” he said. “You know, kick it on a porch for the first few months.”

The Canyon Crepes company, 77 Mel Ray Road, was dreamed up by partners in life and business, Matt Erikson and Christine Lund. After buying a food trailer from Sunlight Mountain Resort, they had many locations to choose to park it, but West Glenwood was the place they felt most at home. Their hours are 11 a.m to 2 p.m. and 4-7 p.m.

“West Glenwood felt a little bit more like home and more like a permanent situation,” Erikson said. “I see the energy, and I think what’s needed down here is just a little bit more energy, you know, somebody to actually come down and get the ball rolling, so to speak.”

They currently sit next to Defiance Outfitters, the owners of which are also partners to Canyon Crepes.

“Having partners and people like that to really help us and support us has just made all the difference and allowed us to get going,” Erikson said. “We just think a lot of them, and their support has really made this possible in a way that it might not have been at this point in the journey.”

The couple previously worked for Defiance Rafting Co., Erikson as a raft guide and Lund on the administrative side. They both have a strong connection to the rafting community and wish to bring the people of West Glenwood some healthier options.  

“Anytime you go rafting or anytime you go hiking or climbing or anything else it’s kind of like, middle of the summer, where do you go? Maybe DQ, or the choices are limited, especially healthy choices,” Erikson said. 

Although the original plan was to make smoothies as a healthy option, Lund realized she had another idea sitting in the back of her head. 

“It’s been in my family for generations, and it’s just a traditional recipe, just a normal one you can find anywhere, but it’s the idea that we always come together as a family maybe once a month or once a week, and we have crepes together,” Lund said.

Lund’s grandparents lived in France for a few years doing humanitarian work and even had a couple of children there. Her aunt operated a crepe business where Lund worked when she was younger. 

“She did sweet and savory crepes, so I think it’s always been in the back of my mind,” Lund said. “It’s something that does really well and is easy. It’s delicious, and it has great flavors, and you can really make it whatever you want.” 

They said they have about 20 different varieties, but will only be rolling out a few at a time. 

Lund and Erikson said they are so enamored by the atmosphere of West Glenwood they are offering deals to locals and the boating community. If you live in West Glenwood. be sure to mention it to get a punch card. 

“We’re doing 15% for raft guides, but honestly, if any of the local boating community, if they were to drag a boat in here, they get 15%,” Erikson said. “It is a big boating community, and we want to be part of that. We’re also happy to send them out with some crepes whether they’re fishing, rafting, doing whitewater or anything else.”

Editor’s note: This story was corrected Aug. 1 to reflect the percentage discount for raft guides.

CBallard@postindependent.com

Talk surfaces of bringing small modular nuclear reactors to Moffat, Routt counties

State Sen. Bob Rankin is trying to test the water for small-reactor atomic energy in Northwest Colorado.

Nuclear power doesn’t come without some concerns, but the idea — as preliminary as it is — is also generating some hope Craig and Hayden might be able to stave off a steep economic downturn from the closures of the area’s two coal-fired power plants this decade.

At this point, discussions of nuclear power in Moffat and Routt counties are so early that it’s barely an idea. Still, Rankin speaks about the possibility optimistically, saying that if it came to fruition, nuclear power could replace the high-paying jobs and property taxes lost with the closures.

“We have to worry about replacing property taxes and high-paying jobs, so that is a strong motivator for looking at this possibility,” Rankin said over the phone Wednesday, adding that a small-scale nuclear operation “would definitely replace about an equal number of high-paying jobs.”

Sen. Bob Rankin
Courtesy photo

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Rankin explained he has been tossing around the idea of bringing small-plant nuclear energy to Northwest Colorado since the end of the legislative session, and Rankin is working with Tim Foster, the newly retired president of Colorado Mesa University.

“He and I are really partners in this endeavor, and our objective is to try to work with Northwest Colorado to investigate whether or not the future of small-scale modular nuclear reactors is an appropriate fit for Craig and perhaps Hayden,” Rankin said.

An advisory committee has been formed that includes utility execs, college presidents and academics, and a cross section of state and local officials like Craig City Manager Peter Brixius. The committee plans to meet Aug. 2 in Craig to continue exploring the idea.

“It’s very first stage,” Rankin said, explaining that they’re focused on public outreach to try to gauge local support right now. Rankin said that if there is enough local support, the next steps would be to pursue more concrete planning, like a detailed feasibility study.

Rankin walked through the idea during a meeting of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado in June, and the AGNC group voted to seek a grant from the Department of Energy to help fund a study to gauge local support.

The Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado is a nonprofit organization of local officials from Moffat, Mesa, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties. Because of that, Rankin said he thought AGNC was the perfect group to pursue the grant money.

“What’s actually going on in the world of these advanced nuclear reactors, they’re much smaller in capacity,” Rankin said as he talked about some of the latest developments in nuclear technology.

Responding to questions about a possible conversion, Rankin said that it’s not clear exactly how well the existing coal power plants might switch to small nuclear reactors, but at the very least, there’s the site itself and existing power transmission systems to help save costs.

“There are three prototyping situations going on in the United States and others worldwide,” Rankin said of the advanced small modular nuclear reactors. “The question is, is there enough interest, enough momentum, enough buy-in across the country to get enough of these prototypes going that the costs would be driven down.”

Craig faces the loss of hundreds of jobs with the closure of Tri-State’s coal plant in Craig and the mine that feeds it. Across Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, the coal mining and coal power industry supports nearly 2,900 jobs and represents more than a fifth of the gross domestic product, according to a study from Colorado Mesa University.

In Moffat County, where the study suggests the economic impacts of closing coal plants will be most severe, coal provides 20% of local jobs.

Also, Xcel Energy has scheduled Hayden Station power plant for closure with Unit 2 powering down the end of 2027 and Unit 1 going offline in 2028. Xcel has said that 75 people are employed at the plant.

Driven largely by economics, the discussion about nuclear power in Northwest Colorado’s coal country has not come without some people expressing their concerns, including worries about potential seismic activity in the area and how nuclear waste would be stored. The AGNC meeting minutes from June say that Sen. Rankin stated small modules are less susceptible to seismic activity.

Additionally, state Rep. Dylan Roberts, who currently represents Hayden in the State House and is running for Colorado Senate, attended AGNC’s June meeting and expressed support after Rankin’s presentation.

“With something this large, it obviously is a big undertaking,” Roberts said. “I think that we all want to learn more. … I’m always one to keep an open mind and have conversations when new ideas come forward.”

For Rankin, it’s an early idea, but it’s one that’s worth exploring.

Rifle hungry for more food trucks

Rifle’s food truck scene boasts some delicious options.

There’s Da Beef, maker of authentic Chicago Italian Beef sandwiches and hotdogs. The truck operates out of the Choice Liquors parking lot on Rifle’s south side and has pretty much spawned a cult following at this point.

There’s also Salazar Truck, where great tortas are made fresh on a flat-top grill, near City Market on Railroad Avenue.

Recently, the city has received more inquiries about permits from prospective food truck operators like these Rifle institutions. But since the city has a cap of six food truck permits, which are filled, it’s kicking around an idea to adopt new rules.

During a July 20 Rifle City Council workshop, city Planning Director Patrick Waller and city staff presented an idea to possibly increase the number of food truck permits. New rules could also create an entire separate permitting category for nonpermanent food truck operators.

“There are other food truck operators out there,” Waller said.

Rifle City Council Member Sean Strode showed support for increasing the number of permits.

“Especially with the economy where it’s now, I think this is a great way to start a business,” he said.

Food truck regulations in Rifle were last amended in 2016, according to city documents. Per these regulations, food trucks can legally operate only in tourist commercial or community zones. These zones fall primarily on Rifle’s south side and along the north end of Railroad Avenue.

Allowing food trucks only in specific zones is to cut down on nuisance complaints, Waller said.  

Meanwhile, food carts — like hot dog stands — are permitted in the Central Business District, which consists of downtown Rifle. No food-cart permits have been permitted so far this year, however.

The council in 2016 also capped the number of food trucks at six, Rifle City Attorney Jim Neu said.

“It’s so expensive to start a restaurant, and a lot of times the food trucks are a way to get in and build a brand,” he said. “I think there’s different thinking now than there was when we adopted that for consideration.”

Rifle City Council member Brian Condie also showed support for changing food truck regulations. But he wants to get feedback from local existing food vendors on how many more permits the city should allow.

Condie said the city should set a professional standard on what it should allow, to prevent an unmanageable influx of food trucks.

“We don’t want to turn into Tijuana,” he said.

Rifle city staff will look into drawing up plans to potentially allow up to four additional food truck permits and bringing the set proposal before council.

West Garfield County Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com.

Xcel pays Colorado solar homeowners 8 cents for their extra electricity, then charges neighbors 17 cents to use it

Paul Aldretti loves to walk his shady neighborhood of Sloan’s Lake on a hot afternoon.

But as the clock nears 3 p.m. and the July sun bakes at a maximum, his mind wanders to his second-story roof, where his grid-connected solar panels are pushing more electricity out to Xcel Energy than his home appliances are sucking down. He heads inside to check his spreadsheets on a computer screen. 

Yes, indeed. Peak time rates for Xcel have kicked in, and the big utility is charging regular homeowners a few blocks away 17 cents a kilowatt hour in base rates to power their air conditioning and fans. 

But they’re only paying Aldretti 8 cents a kilowatt hour to buy his extra solar power. 

“I have these kind of ‘what-the-heck’ moments,” said Aldretti, replacing some words with off-peak profanities. “I’m doing all of the right things, but I’m not getting any of the benefits.”

Aldretti and more than 60,000 Colorado homeowners with solar panels on their roofs don’t yet have access to the smart meters that allow Xcel to charge — or give credits — at different peak or off-peak rates during the day under a system called “time of use,” a solar trade group says.

Read the full story via the Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.

New ground shuttle service, Roaring Fork Express, to debut this month

A ground transportation service called Roaring Fork Express announced Monday it will enter the local market this month with service on a scaled basis, with plans to expand its offerings this winter.

Roaring Fork Express, owned by Montrose-based CO West Transportation, will begin limited on-demand commercial operations July 22, offering daily shuttles to Denver International Airport and Eagle County Airport, along with wedding and event transportation. 

The new service comes after Epic Mountain Express, formerly known as Colorado Mountain Express, stopped serving the Roaring Fork Valley in October. The CME shuttle service currently covers Eagle and Summit counties.

 “The need for this service became readily apparent during last winter’s snowy Christmas holidays,” said Bill Tomcich, airline consultant to Fly Aspen Snowmass, in a statement. “Replacing scheduled ground transportation into Aspen Snowmass became a very high priority, and we are excited to welcome Roaring Fork Express as an organization that is both qualified and experienced in providing these vital services.” 

The new service is a result of a collaboration among Roaring Fork Shuttle, Aspen Skiing Co. and Fly Aspen Snowmass.

 “When looking for a new transportation partner, our priorities were to find a company with an excellent service reputation, and eagerness to partner with our community and a one best suited to serve our locals and visitors alike,” said Kristi Kavanagh, Skico vice president of global sales, in a statement. “Once we learned of the goals and vision of the Roaring Fork Express team, it was obvious they were the right partner with whom to align.”

Shuttle and wedding/event services can be booked by calling 970-486-3002 or 800-822-4844, or at www.roaringforkexpress.com.