City of Rifle giving away free land to attract new business

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RIFLE, Colo. (KKCO) - The City of Rifle says it knows all too well the dangers of relying on one industry to drive the local economy -- particularly during a recession. So it's pulling out all the stops -- and price tags -- to attract new business to the area.

Rifle, like most cities these days, is feeling the drain of tough economic times.

"We have had a significant drop in our revenue stream and in the energy sector it's been even greater," says Keith Lambert, mayor of Rifle.

With the slowdown in natural gas drilling and mass layoffs that have resulted from it, Lambert says he and other city leaders are working hard to prevent another "boom and bust" from devastating the city.

"What we're trying to establish is a level economy that allows us to move forward at a gradual pace, create jobs, and bring families to the Rifle area," he says.

Their solution: turning a 145 acre, city owned field into an Innovative Energy Center -- a place where renewable energy companies could set up shop and take advantage of the Rifle area's vast natural resources.

But just how would the city bring those businesses to Rifle? By making them an offer they can't refuse.

"We would be in a position to put land under these companies for free if it meets our criteria," says Lambert.

Officials say because the land was given to the city by the U.S. Department of Energy, they cannot sell it and are required by law to maintain ownership of it -- providing the means for them to lease off sections of it for free.

And it doesn't stop there. City leaders are also talking about giving sales tax rebates to companies who build there. Officials say this lucrative deal is already catching the attention of companies across the country.

"We're attracting a commercial composting company right now to use our sludge from our waste water treatment facility, which is also located on this site," says Lambert.

The area is also home to the state's second largest solar panel array -- a starting block for what officials hope will eventually become a thriving local industry.

"I think what we're really looking for in the short term and long term is some stability to our economy," says Lambert.

City officials say they're in the process of doing infrastructure work in the area, to get it ready for when businesses come to town.

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