Rural Jump Start eligibility sought for west Garfield communities
Program offers tax breaks for new businesses
Garfield County is seeking to qualify its four west-end communities for Colorado’s Rural Jump Start program, providing tax breaks for new businesses.
County commissioners on Monday agreed to sign on to a letter from Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado to the Colorado Economic Development Commission, seeking to make Rifle, Parachute, Silt and New Castle eligible for the program.
If approved, new-start businesses in those communities could apply for a four-year personal property tax exemption from the county. The exemption can be renewed for an additional four years.
In addition, the program requires a higher-education institution to sponsor the program. The Colorado Mountain College Rifle Campus has agreed to be that sponsor.
“This will be a great tool for businesses to use,” said County Commissioner Mike Samson, who represents the Rifle-area district on the Board of County Commissioners.
“Associated Governments has worked very hard to get this through step one, and now it’s onto step two,” Samson said. “This will be a great boon to us in western Garfield County.”
The letter to the state EDC prepared by AGNC includes statistical data to support the request, including:
• Per capita income for Silt, Rifle and Parachute is $28,556; more than 20% below the state average.
• Average unemployment over the past five years in the area is 4.54%, which is higher than the state average.
• The percent of K-12 students eligible for free school lunch in the two school districts serving the area is 38.5%; also higher than the state average of 33%.
In addition, the request letter points out that the vast majority of people who reside in the four west-end communities work elsewhere — including 96.2% of people from Silt, 93.5% from New Castle, 86.5% from Parachute, and 75.8% from Rifle.
The letter also makes note of the decline in natural gas production and loss of energy-related jobs, and the relatively lower-paying jobs that have replaced them in making the case for Rural Jump Start eligibility.
Letters of support are also being sought from the individual municipalities that would be included. The state EDC is slated to consider the request on March 18, said Bonnie Peterson, executive director for AGNC.
Workforce services worries
In another jobs-related matter Monday, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky expressed concerns with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s plans to close the Rifle Workforce Service Center.
Doing so would leave the south Glenwood Springs office as the only Workforce Center in Garfield County, he noted.
“I don’t think it does service to the community in western Garfield County (to have only one location),” Jankovsky said.
One option under consideration by the state, according to comments at the Monday commissioners meeting, is to have a workforce services representative available at local libraries in western Garfield County on a rotating basis.
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