Region 9 Helps SW Colorado Keep up With Front Range
Part 1: Asset-based economic development - an effective rural strategy
What does Cadillac Ranch, the largest ball of twine, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and the Seattle Space Needle have in common? They are all examples of asset-based economic development. Identifying what makes a community unique is a very effective strategy for rural areas and if intentionally leveraged, can at minimum, create a community brand and attract visitors.
Asset-based economic development is not mountain biking or rafting…at least not in Colorado. Yes, we have rivers, and public lands, but those are not unique to our community alone. Wealthworks.org talks about eight capitals that I believe rural communities can look at and help identify their “unique assets”. The capitals include cultural, political, social, built, natural and intellectual among others. Individual capital includes the skills, physical health and mental wellness in a region’s people (think agriculture and extreme athletes). Intellectual capital includes a community’s knowledge, creativity and innovation (think Los Alamos scientists or even your corporate retiree base). Mesa Verde is an example of a built asset. Looking at a community’s unique assets and promoting them intentionally is the foundation for diversifying and strengthening an economy.
Asset-based economic development is one of four economic development strategies that are very effective in rural communities.
Photo courtesy of Region 9. From left to Right: Terry Blair-Burton, Jenny Stollar, Stephani Burditt, Brian Rose, Shirley Jones, Heather Otter, and Laura Lewis Marchino.
Part 2: Supporting new business start-ups help rural areas compete
It is no surprise that job opportunities are lacking in rural areas, but less commonly known is that the number of start-up businesses are declining nationwide. The Kaufman Foundation cites 16.3% of the U.S. population is rural and 12.2% of start-up businesses occur in rural areas. This is a statistic our region is working to change.
Quality of life begins with a good job, and jobs are now following people rather than people following jobs. This shift provides a huge opportunity for rural areas to compete simply by investing in local business creation. As a tourist economy Southwest Colorado is even more competitive, because many who visit decide to become residents.
Growing an entrepreneurial environment needs many partners linking to available business resources and supports that will allow entrepreneurs to create a job for themselves and hopefully one day, hire others. Region 9 links businesses to everything from co-working spaces, federal, state and local incentives, and gap financing; to accelerator programs and venture capital. There is also work underway to open an Innovation Center through Fort Lewis College that could provide a central one-stop-shop.
The Southwest Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is another key partner and provides business workshops and free one-on-one counseling. Appointments and workshops are made throughout the five counties of Region 9.
Supporting entrepreneur innovation in our rural communities’ help:
- build the tax base
- stabilize the population
- keep residents that are already invested in our communities
- diversify the economy, and
- create needed primary jobs
The creation of primary jobs is a focus of the Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs (SCAPE). SCAPE provides intensive mentoring for businesses with a product or service that can be sold outside of the region with the potential to grow quickly. SCAPE also prepares the companies to pitch to investors and provides an investment fund for their companies. There are also several state programs that focus and serve rural to keep rural areas from being left behind the thriving Front Range. Southwest Colorado supports entrepreneurs and there is no better time to take your idea and create a business start-up. Give us a call 970-247-9621 if you need more information on what is available.
Photo courtesy of Region 9. Pictured: Laura Lewis Marchino CEcD, Executive Director
Laura Lewis Marchino has been Executive Director of Region 9 Economic Development District for the past 3 years and on the team for over 14 years. She works hard to promote and coordinate economic development efforts throughout Southwest Colorado.