The Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday approved an oversight agreement for Chaffee County to host a new, Chaffee, Park and Lake counties Small Business Development Center. The three-county plan is solidified by an agreement with the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, based on state grant resources of approximately $2.6 million.
“We’re asking for your support to basically create a sub-regional office for the Small Business Center with Chaffee as the host,” said Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Wendell Pryor at the May 14 commissioners meeting. “We want your approval – the REDI (Rural Economic Development Initiative) grants last year created a pathway for some incredible momentum we’re experiencing. This is a big deal – it won a statewide innovation awarded last year and we’re getting repeat [small business] customers.”
Those funds would establish an office in the county with the goal of providing consulting to small businesses in the three-county area including business planning, assistance in identifying financial resources and services designed to help small business.
The new center would be located on the second floor of the Touber Building in Salida, in space that has been vacant for several years. Commissioner’s approval means that the county is moving forward with direct oversight of the office.
“I’d say there are two things about this that I really like, first it is institutionalizing support in the community for business and second, it means we are becoming a regional hub for innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Commissioner Greg Felt.
“We’re about as hot as you can get as far as innovation in the community,” said Pryor, who indicated that the position for center director will be posted in the next couple of weeks.
“We plan on spending some of the funds for staff support,” explained Pryor. “Lake County is coming in on this – even their chamber [of commerce] wants to put in $5,000. We’ll get a resolution from Lake about their support and Park [County] is already committed.”
Chaffee County Director of General Administration Bob Christiansen said that the county is crafting a Memo of Understanding for the three counties to sign. This will become the working document of how the center will operate.
Commissioner Keith Baker noted that between this effort, the county’s opportunity zones, and the Colorado Outdoor Opportunity office, that Chaffee is becoming a sought-after rural business area.
“It’s an exciting time and moment for us,” said Pryor, “The administration does want to make a specific effort to support rural Colorado. They have a rural prosperity person appointed at the state level. There will be more happening in this program.”
The motion by Commissioner Rusty Granzella, to continue moving forward with the oversight by the county of the Small Business Development Center together with Park and Lake counties, was seconded by Commissioner Keith Baker and passed unanimously.
The Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) program is designed to help rural communities comprehensively diversify their local economy and create a more resilient Colorado. For more about these programs go to www.colorado.gov/pacific/dola/rural-economic-development-initiative.
Those looking for more information about the county’s opportunity zones can go to www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2018/03/23/colorado-identifies-126-opportunity-zones-eligible.html .
Those interested in learning more about the Colorado Outdoor Opportunity office can go to www.choosecolorado.com/programs-initiatives/outdoor-recreation-industry-office.