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Economic Impacts of Western Excelsior Fire Will Deepen

Austin Cope

The economic impacts of the fire that gutted the Western Excelsior Plant in Mancos in May are only just beginning to be felt.

A spokesperson for the company told members of the timber and trucking industries, local governments, and elected officials at a meeting Tuesday the plant will likely neither completely stop production, nor return to full operation.

One logging business lost two-thirds of its sales after the plant halted operations. It will now have to truck its products much farther. Truckers and contractors that worked with the plant are also losing money.

Montezuma County Emergency Manager Paul Hollar told the group that if at least five businesses meet state disaster relief requirements, they can receive low-interest federal loans from the Small Business Administration to offset their losses.

But the indirect financial impacts of the fire will also impact the town soon, according to Mancos Town Clerk Heather Alvarez.

“The employees aren’t living here, they’re not shopping here, their children aren’t in school here, so it will take several months before we start seeing those impacts,” Alvarez said, “but we do estimate a rather large hit.”

A Region 9 economic development district study found the plant contributed an estimated 3.7 million dollars to Montezuma County directly and indirectly between January and October of 2015. Alvarez said a large portion of that money went to Mancos.

Colorado State Senator Don Coram also attended the meeting. He says the fire was a disaster, and he isn’t sure if the town will ever return to where it was before the blaze. But he supports investments in rural broadband and small manufacturing, and he hopes town leaders can come up with a game plan.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” he said.

Click below to listen to the full interviews with Coram and Alvarez.

Interview with Don Coram

Austin Cope is a former Morning Edition host for KSJD and now produces work on a freelance basis for the station. He grew up in Cortez and hosted a show on KSJD when he was 10 years old. After graduating from Montezuma-Cortez High School in 2010, he lived in Belgium, Ohio, Spain, northern Wyoming, and Himachal Pradesh, India before returning to the Cortez area. He has a degree in Politics from Oberlin College in Ohio.
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