If you happen to know Craig, it’s probably because of the dinosaurs. Tucked into the northwestern corner of the state, the frontier city of 9,000 is less than an hour from Dinosaur National Monument.
Otherwise, what defines Craig is coal. But that’s about to change.
We got to talking with Jason about Craig because he’s examining how jobs are changing across Colorado—and what’s being done for the people and places who risk being left behind. In rural communities like Craig the local college looms large.
Can it retrain residents? Can it help diversify the economy? Can it help a region reimagine its future?
“Craig’s a mirror for other rural areas,” says Jason, who covers higher ed for our partner Chalkbeat Colorado
. He recently went to Craig and talked with people about their future. It feels fragile.
The coal plant that’s been there since the late 1970s is slated to close by 2030. Hundreds of jobs will disappear. The governor has promised that rural communities like Craig won’t be alone as the state transitions to renewable energy.
But Colorado’s plan for redefining local economies leaves out some key details — things like how much money, exactly, the state will provide and where they will find it, especially now, in a pandemic-challenged economy.
With some state money, and with some of its own, Colorado Northwestern Community College
is adding programs in areas like cybersecurity, nursing, and paleontology, all with the goal of helping Craig create a new, diverse jobs base.
A Rich History
Why Craig? What made you decide to go there?
When I started digging into career education in Colorado, I found so many stories about community colleges trying to adapt to meet the needs of high-demand jobs. But Craig always stood out because of the state’s timeline to pull back its use of coal as an energy source.
What did you learn that surprised you?
I was truly tickled about the stories of Butch Cassidy roaming the desert and canyons in northwestern Colorado. The city might be small, but it has a rich history.
What’s at stake?
Places like Craig persist because the lifestyle actually gives you something you don’t get in an urban center. You get quiet, open space. You know your neighbors’ names. These places matter because, sure, they’re a throwback to our Old West frontier life, but there’s a sense of peace and freedom there that you can’t find in a big city.
+ Read Jason’s story here. It’s the second part of a series about job training in Colorado. His first story, about how the state is failing adults, is here. Read that, too!