‘Once in a lifetime’: Hayden gets $5.2m to diversify economy as plant closure looms

Plumes of water vapor rise from Hayden Station in 2017. On January 4, Xcel Energy announced that it would close the plant, Unit 1 in 2027 and Unit 2 in 2028.

The town of Hayden will receive $5.2 million in federal grants for a regional industrial park project that hopes to reduce impacts when Hayden Station closes by the end of the decade.

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced Tuesday, Aug. 9, that neighboring Hayden and Craig — another community in the shadow of a soon-to-close coal-fired power plant — would receive a total of $8.5 million for coal communities. in the US bailout.

The price in Hayden is enough to fully fund the planned industrial park near the Yampa Valley Regional Airport, City Manager Mathew Mendisco said.

“This business park, we think, is going to be almost like the agent of change for the valley,” Mendisco said. “It’s going to give many local businesses the opportunity to grow where they might not have been able to.”

The industrial park project began as one facet of a proposal to win grants under the regional Build Back Better Challenge in the same vein as a project in Sheridan, Wyoming, that helped diversify its economy, which was also based on mining and tourism industries.

The regional proposal was ultimately not chosen, but Mendisco kept the project alive and turned to funding from the United States Economic Development Administration.

“We worked very hard for this,” Mendisco said. “It will centralize many businesses, which will be a benefit for the whole valley.”

The grant will fund infrastructure such as roads, water and sewers on the property officially annexed to the city last week. The idea is that the plots could be ready-made for a company to buy or rent and then build what their business needs.

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The goal of the industrial park is to offer local businesses looking to expand their businesses an option to stay in the Yampa Valley. While attracting new business isn’t a bad thing, Mendisco said the project is really about retaining and expanding businesses that are already there.

“As we move away from coal in the Valley, this is a step in the right direction for the community of Hayden to grow economically,” said Mayor Zach Wuestewald. “As we lose a huge economic engine going forward, we all need to find ways to weather the storm economically.”

Wuestewald stressed that there is still a lot of work to be done before Hayden has some future as he prepares for the closure of Hayden Station – the Xcel Energy-owned power plant which is expected to close by the end of 2028.

Entities like the school, fire department, and Hayden Library District currently derive between 55% and 65% of their funding from property taxes paid by the power plant.

“It’s going to be a big problem when we lose the tax revenue that we’re going to lose,” Wuestewald said. “There is no answer, but having a bit of a plan is reassuring.”

The money comes from the EDA’s US Bailout Economic Adjustment Assistance Program, which has offered $500 million of these grants to communities across the country.

Mendisco called it a “unique opportunity” because this particular program allows for less local funding. If Hayden had to match half of the $5.2 million grant, Mendisco said the project likely wouldn’t have been possible for the town of 2,000.

The $5.2 million from the federal government is complemented by more than $700,000 in local and state funding and is expected to create nearly 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 would mean for their main streets, their schools, and their mode of life. life,” said U.S. Senator Michael Bennett, a Democrat, in a statement on 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 city already had from the Colorado Office of Just Transition. This office was created to help communities lose significant chunks of their economy as Colorado sets some of the most aggressive emissions reduction targets in the nation.

The plan is to complete design work by the end of December so the project can go to tender in January, he said.

“This project was for the retention and expansion of businesses locally,” Mendisco said. “To create more jobs here in a sustainable way and we can invest in the future and the businesses that are already here.”

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