Collaborative efforts have distinguished the southwest region as a leader in the economic and business development fields. The Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado (Region 9), Southwest Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and the La Plata Economic Development Alliance (Alliance) are strong partners building their entrepreneur infrastructure with limited resources. Due to wanting to get the biggest “bang for the buck”, the partners have focused their last several years on second stage or growth companies. Growth companies are defined as businesses that export products and services outside the region, are growing, and offer higher than average wage jobs. These are the companies that communities want to be successful because they bring in new income and have high brand recognition. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Mercury Payment Systems, Zuke’s Performance Pet Treats and StoneAge are examples.
This specialized focus has seen results. The Colorado Companies to Watch program recognizes 50 growth companies every year, and southwest Colorado has had the most winners from any rural region in the state. Since the program began in 2009, southwest Colorado has seen 12 companies recognized.
But due to their remote, rural location, the local economy relies heavily on entrepreneurial small scale businesses for jobs and tax revenues, and these businesses also need to be sustained and grown.
The Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs (SCAPE) is an additional tool in the tool box that identifies the emerging businesses that need intensive mentoring and capital investment to put them on the growth company track.
SCAPE’s objective is to support the creation and development of job creating companies by offering an Accelerator Program. Successful completion of the SCAPE program should provide these businesses the ability to enter markets and raise capital. The goal is to “graduate” up to 8 companies every year, with each company creating at least 6 jobs in the first two years.
This new program is supported by Region 9, the Alliance, the SBDC as well as a number of local financial institutions. There are also 15 private investor mentors that will accept businesses for intensive mentorship to help them address the specific challenges they face in establishing and growing their company.
According to Ed Morlan, executive director of Region 9, “SCAPE builds on the success of the Growth Company Initiative, and provides another level of services and support for the emerging growth startups in Southwest Colorado. We are happy to support this program and expect to see some great companies come out of it”.
SCAPE will run 2 Accelerator Programs per year, each of them four months long.
Companies accepted into the program will receive up to $30,000 to help build their company, along with free office space, discounted business services and intensive mentorship. At the end of the four month program there will be a presentation given by all finalists that will include potential follow-on investors.
“Southwest Colorado has a lot of entrepreneurs with great business ideas” said Gary Masner, a SCAPE co-founder. “Until now, it has been a challenge for many of them to turn their ideas into a successful business. SCAPE will help them with their hurdles and set them up for success.”
The project also aligns with the State Colorado Blueprint Economic Development Plan, by focusing on Colorado’s 14 identified key industry areas.
SCAPE is currently working with its first companies. For more information, please go to www.goscape.org.
Laura Lewis Marchino is the assistant director of Region 9. Region 9 serves five counties, ten municipalities and two tribes in Southwest Colorado. Region 9’s mission is to be a regional leader, working cooperatively with the private and public sectors to enhance economic conditions, and improve the region’s economic prosperity.