Rio Blanco County hires chamber director to head economic development

Katelin Cook

Katelin Cook
Katelin Cook
RBC I Rio Blanco County has hired a Meeker woman to be the new county economic development director, working closely with the county, Meeker and Rangely town governments and the chambers of commerce in the area to increase economic development throughout the county.
Katelin Cook, who has been executive director of the Meeker Chamber of Commerce for nearly three years, will fill the new position of county economic developer, effective Jan. 13.
Shawn Bolton, chairman of the Rio Blanco County Board of Commissioners until Jan. 13, when Commissioner Jon Hill of Rangely will become chairman, said of Cook’s hiring, “I think it’s a good deal; there are lots of good programs at the state level that we can now tap into that will help us,” Bolton said. “This can all work to make us a factor in the state’s future actions toward economic development.
“Katelin will work closely with Alise Ackerman from DOLA (Colorado Department of Local Affairs) and Carrie Linker of the governor’s office of economic development, and these are the top two people in the state who can help us out,” he said. “This is something we had to do to get this county moving forward to bring new businesses, corporations and growth to Rio Blanco County.”
Cook is married to Deloy Cook, who works with Ducey Electric. She is also a present trustee on the Meeker town board, serving a second term in office.
“I am very excited about this opportunity and I believe it is a good step forward for Rio Blanco County,” Cook said. “I have always been interested in economic/business development, and I like the thought of helping the county and the communities become more self-sufficient.
“I already have some good state contacts, but most importantly, our sources will widen greatly, and by working with all the entities in the county, we can work both the public relations and development components without duplicating efforts,” she said. “The entities within this county can’t afford a full-time chamber of commerce director and an economic development association on their owns, so this one office will be able to help the county, the towns and the chambers to work more in collaboration with each other to the benefit of each other.”
Cook was graduated from Colorado Mesa College in 2007 with two bachelor of business administration degrees with special emphasis in two areas, marketing and management, both of which she graduated with cum laude honors. She is also a 2012 graduate of the Ford Institute for Community Building and its leadership program and a 2013 graduate of the Stronger Economies Together (SET) technical training assistance. (SET is a regional economic development program incorporating Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties and several of the area towns, chambers of commerce, economic development corporations and private partners.)
She has also been highly active in community groups and events, including: membership in the Wagon Wheel OHV Club; membership on the United Way/Human Resource Council advisory committee from 2011 to present; a Future Farmers of America/Friends of Meeker FFA volunteer from 2011 to present; a member of the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trials board of directors from 2010 to present; a member of the Meeker High School Consumer and Family Studies advisory committee from 2007 to present; lead community organizer for the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree Committee in 2011-12; a judge at the Rio Blanco County Fair 2011-2012; and a judge at the local, district and state levels of the Family Career and Community Leaders of America from 2007 to 2009.
“I expect this to be quite a challenging position,” Cook said. “Meeker and Rangely need different things. We in Meeker have no railroad access to this part of the county, and that limits business, and we are off a major highway.
“Rangely needs more housing and they seem to be really wanting broadband access while Meeker needs more area to bring business in, and it needs a larger, more-ready workforce than Rangely,” she said. “On the other hand, both towns are in a beautiful settings and the livability of the area is unmatched.
“We have good water, we have a good power supply, we have great recreation opportunities and we have a variety of activities that can be done inside and outside during the entire year,” she said. “We have lots of federal lands and we have great cooperation between the government/chamber entities on both ends of the county. We definitely have some plusses over some of the more-populated counties just because we aren’t as populated.”
Cook will be working closely with an advisory board that has yet to be determined, Cook and Bolton said.
The board will consist of at least one representative from the county, representatives of the towns and of the chambers of commerce and other members yet to be determined, Cook and Bolton said.
Cook said efforts will take off quickly in January, when the board will be formed and the board members outline the direction they wish to proceed.
“I believe we will be getting great assistance through Denver and through the people I have worked closely with through the chamber,” Cook said. “We are already getting those in Denver to recognize the existence of Meeker and Rangely.
“I believe Denver is actually excited about this position being created,” she said. “Now they will have someone to to deal with, and there are a lot of things we can look at that we couldn’t deal with before — such as a small business incubator system, which would help existing and new businesses get a foot up when needed to start a business or when an existing company needs help to sustain business — and this can all be done with and alongside the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC).”
Cook said one of biggest challenges will be to balance the unknown expectations of the public with reality.
“A lot of this will be new to me,” Cook said. “We will have a meeting in January, when we will all sit down and see what direction everyone wants to go — be it all in one direction or if everyone wants to head their own way.
“Rio Blanco has a much broader budget than a chamber of commerce,” and the tough job will be to see what everyone wants to do and to utilize that money for the best overall benefit of the county,” she said.
Cook has been executive director of the Meeker Chamber of Commerce since 2011. Prior to that, from 2009 to 2011, she was owner of DC Outfitters LLC in Meeker. From 2007 to 2011, she was an escrow officer with Rio Blanco County Abstract Co. in Meeker while also being a adjunct/associate faculty member at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Meeker.