PCDI Board Discusses Utility Rate Impact on Business Growth in County

PCDI board members discussed what effect local utility rates have on potential economic growth and business development in Prowers County during their monthly board meeting, Tuesday, July 31.  Lawrence Brase said he had asked Prowers County Development Incorporated Executive Director, Lisa Nolder, to explore the economic impact JBS, Five Rivers feedlot has on the community.  JBS representatives had requested a rate break from the Lamar Utility Board during its March 27 meeting, citing high rates compared to what other, similar sized feedlots in its operation are charged by other electric suppliers. 

Board members discussed how the Light Plant rates, high in comparison to other utility providers in Colorado, are a key factor in whether a business will locate in Prowers County.   She said she’s spoken with five other, large-scale, local businesses who would like to see some form of consideration on their utility rate structure.  One local contractor recently laid off some employees, not because of lost contracts, but because their job orders could be done with less overhead at one of their other factories.  PCDI board members are concerned that any new business, given a choice between the utility rates in Lamar and another community, would locate to where the costs are less expensive.  Nolder stated, “If they feel our rates are too expensive to locate to Prowers County, we can go right off their radar.” 

Utility Board members have stated that they don’t have much leeway to reduce rates as they’re paying parent company ARPA for purchased power, about the same as their charging Light Plant customers.  One LUB member stated in March that if rate reductions are given to one customer, everyone will be asking for the same consideration, which isn’t possible.  Brase stated that JBS is sitting on a $10.5 million expansion project which will benefit the tax structure of the community.  He added that even if the feedlot company uses their own generators to produce their power, it will still have a local economic impact.  Nolder said she should have the JBS financial impact report ready by the August board meeting, and will inquire about beginning a dialogue with Lamar Light and Power, ARPA and local businesses to explore any form of rate structure relief.  

Four drilling applications have been filed with the regional representative of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, but Nolder’s monthly executive director update indicated that no active permits are currently pending in the county.  Officials are expecting to see some progress made in the next two months.  Kiowa and Bent Counties have received the bulk of the drilling applications to date.  A business prospect is going to view the Washington Street warehouse and offices next week.  Nolder made contact with an interested business in early July during the annual AWEA convention in Georgia.  She told the board the property has been shown several times this summer and a local couple is also interested in the property.  A regional hearing aid center has also show interest in expanding to Prowers County. 

Nolder, who is the secretary for SEBREA, headquartered in La Junta, said the six-county, southeast Colorado business development group is considering forming a regional Economic Development District by following specific state guidelines.  Once established, SEBREA could qualify for loan funds for the region, separate from the SCEDD group, a 12 county organization.  Nolder said the general feeling is the six county operation would provide more local economic representation for southeast Colorado. 

Southeast Colorado is still experiencing job loss.  Nolder’s report to the board included the recent job loss for over 100 persons at the Colorado Boys Ranch, as well as earlier lost Ft. Lyon Prison jobs.  She said there were close to 60 private prison jobs eliminated this past spring at the facilities in Bent and Crowley counties.  Nolder said this past year, there have been approximately 350 jobs eliminated in southeast Colorado, not including the recent mining layoffs in Trinidad.

By Russ Baldwin


Filed Under: BusinessChamber/Local BusinesscommunityCountyEconomyEmploymentEnergyFeaturedLamarTransportationUtilities


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