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Colby Economic Development Corp looks to spruce up city

By Neal Hogden

Members of the Colby Economic Development Corp and area businesspeople attended a meeting of the CEDC on Wednesday, April 10 to discuss strategies to increase development in Colby. The meeting began with a listening session in which members of the CEDC listened to attendees and their ideas on how to increase interest in prospective developers building in Colby.

Three main areas of development were identified by attendees as areas of concern.


Housing has long been a concern for the Colby-Abbotsford area but more as of late. Colby City Clerk Connie Gurtner said an upcoming development from S.C. Swiderski already has people talking about wanting to get situated in the new development. Colby Mayor Jim Schmidt said Swiderski is planning to put in 56 apartments and eight duplexes this upcoming summer.

One concern that was brought up by Gurtner and Schmidt was the fact that it’s getting harder and harder to find people willing to construct single family homes in subdivisions due to the high cost of construction at this time. Gurtner said one thing that has given her a more positive outlook on single-family home development was the new TIF District laws which allow cities to give financial help to developers of single family homes.

She said developers used to be on their own but now, the city is able to offer water, sewer and road access to builders as part of the new incentive program.

Gurtner said she would love to see townhouses or duplex development which would offer an ownership ability to purchasers as some people would prefer to own their property as opposed to renting it. She said Swiderski was offering only rental properties as a part of their development, however.

Child care

Another area of concern has been child care throughout the work day. Currently, child care options for younger children are limited to a few locations throughout Colby. Colby School District Superintendent Patrick Galligan said he hopes by next school year, the district is able to provide some sort of before or after school child care. He said the district has been looking into funding for the

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program but said the goal is to have something small in place by the start of next school year.

Restaurants and other recreation

Loos Machine and Automation owner and CEO Eric Mertens said he is encouraged by the fact that the city is looking into better housing options. He also said he would like to see the city piggyback off of the unique location characteristics the city has being a half hour to an hour away from multiple metropolitan areas to market to restaurants and other businesses.

He said if the city can harness the momentum that Swiderski’s development will bring in terms of increasing population, and pitch that to businesses, it might be a good selling point.

Other attendees said they would like to see a sit-down restaurant option such as an Applebee’s or a different chain.

“How do you find owners of franchises or chains and get people that are willing to open that type of business? It’s a tough business to start, a restaurant.”

Mertens said a sit-down option would be beneficial to him as a business as it would be another option that he could take customers to.

Galligan said over the last five to ten years, the population in the Colby and Abbotsford areas have grown and the city could have a significant selling point using population numbers when pitching to prospective businesses.

Kelly Schmidt, owner of Embroidery Express, said Medford markets themselves by saying they aren’t the biggest of communities, but they have a population of 10,000 during the day as people come to the community to work, shop or run other errands. It was noted that Colby might not have that big of a pull during the day, but they do have a good amount of people passing through using Hwy. 13 and Hwy. 29.

Spruce up Main Street

Another topic of discussion was how to attract people to the area when the buildings that are viewable from the main traffic corridor of Hwy. 13 are not visibly pleasing.

Gurtner said the city has contacted property owners in the past about redoing the facade of their buildings but they have been met with overwhelming responses that showed the owners did not want to put money into the buildings.

Sheila Nyberg of the Clark County Economic Development Corporation said there is a facade grant from the PDW that helps finance renovations to the outside of the buildings that are visible from highways. Nyberg suggested the CEDC look into grant options available to them as a non-profit to see if any additional funding for facade renovations could be obtained.

Gurtner said that would be a good idea, however, the property owners need to be willing to work with the corporation and want to do the renovations.

Moving forward

The CEDC will be having semi-regular public and non-public meetings. Anyone is welcome to attend. The City of Colby’s Facebook page will have more information on future meeting dates and times.