One of the key objectives of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) is to expand the state’s economic prosperity that is broadly realized within the metro area to reach all of Colorado. To do this, OEDIT has targeted programs that support economic prosperity in rural communities, including the Rural Jump-Start Program.
This program is a two-fold opportunity that cultivates economic activity in specifically targeted rural counties while providing tax breaks to new companies that chose to locate within those counties. The counties receive the benefit of attracting new businesses to their communities, and these businesses are able to boost the local economy while receiving tax relief for four years with the opportunity to apply for an extension of an additional four years. These benefits include:
- state income tax relief for the business
- state income tax relief for the employee
- state sales and use tax
- county and municipal personal property tax relief
According to Ken Jensen, the director of the program, the employee income tax relief is one-of-a-kind in the sense that no other tax relief program in the state directly benefits the employees, rather than the company at large. Jensen also noted that the benefits of the program go beyond the tax relief as it generates a lot of excitement and conversation within the communities. According to Jensen, “the attention draws people in. It creates new energy”, to help these businesses and their surrounding communities thrive.
Page Tucker, the CEO of ProStar and recipient of the Rural Jump-Start tax benefits, shares the same sentiment.
ProStar is a tech company that started as a small startup determined to provide precision mapping solutions via the cloud or mobile devices. According to Tucker, nationwide, nearly 30 million miles worth of utility infrastructure lie underground. Every year, there are over 400,000 unintentional hits to these networks due to a lack of knowledge of their whereabouts. ProStar offers the only patented solution in the world to address these problems.
When ProStar first applied to the Rural Jump-Start program, it was a group of five employees striving to get their company off the ground. Today, it has a team of 25 employees, many of whom are Colorado Mesa University (CMU) graduates. Tucker explained that this is critical because CMU is an integral part of their community. By hiring CMU graduates, Grand Junction is able to retain the talent that is born within the community.
Tucker also boasts the importance of keeping his company in a rural area as it has given him and his employees the opportunity to find employment without having to move to a big city.
“We truly provide the best of both worlds. You can have a high paying tech job that also offers you a higher quality of life with the outdoor recreation we have in our rural community.”
Tucker hopes that other companies and rural communities will be able to utilize the Rural Jump-Start program as well to share this high quality of life. Tucker proudly affirms that “it takes one company to say ‘it can be done.’”
Similarly, Aaron Young, CEO of Kaart, expressed how important the tax benefits have been to his company. Kaart is a GIS company located in Grand Junction, Colorado that maps transportation networks all across the world. Young noted that without the Rural Jump-Start state income tax reliefs, he would likely lose many of his most talented employees. He explained that often, rural communities cannot provide the same high incomes that companies in big cities may offer. However, the state income tax relief gives his company the chance to compete and retain talent.
While there has been a lot of success in Mesa County, there is still a great deal of untapped potential for other counties and businesses in Colorado. Currently, there are 15 counties with established Rural Jump-Start zones and an additional 25 counties that are eligible to apply for Rural Jump-Start zone status.
OEDIT is currently working to extend this program another five years. If businesses feel they may be eligible to participate or counties would like to achieve Rural Jump-Start zone status, they should reach out to both Ken Jensen at (303) 892-3743 or firstname.lastname@example.org as well as their local economic developer.