Rural Jump-Start program helps start new businesses in economically distressed regions

For those living in rural Colorado, or those intrigued by that lifestyle and looking for a change of scenery, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) offers the Rural Jump-Start program for new businesses to launch or move their business from out of the state to rural, economically distressed areas of Colorado. Eligible businesses can receive up to $20,000 and an additional $2,500 for each new hire for economically distressed counties and up to $40,000 and an additional $5,000 for each new hire for Tier One Just Transition counties (businesses are required to hire at least five new positions). Businesses cannot compete with similar businesses in the same county or an adjacent economically distressed county. The program provides both a grant, as well as, tax relief to businesses and applications are accepted on a rolling basis. 

“The Rural Jump-Start program allows entrepreneurs who live or want to live in rural parts of Colorado to start their own businesses while also creating jobs in places that are struggling to provide enough employment opportunities,” said Morgan Vankat, program manager of the Rural Jump-Start and Skill Advance Colorado programs. “We see some amazing businesses come out of this program, many of which fit the Colorado spirit of innovation and creativity.” 

Eligible businesses must be in a rural jump-start zone, and either be a startup company, an existing company that will relocate to one of the zones from outside of the state, or a new division of an existing company. In order to apply for the program, the business must be sponsored by either a Designated Institute of Higher Education (DIHE) or an approved Economic Development Office (EDO).  

Businesses awarded grant funding from the Rural Jump-Start program receive tax benefits including relief from state income taxes and state sales and use tax, 100 percent of county personal property taxes, municipal personal property taxes (in participating municipalities), and 100 percent of state income taxes for the employee. Local governments often provide additional tax relief from other county or municipal taxes. 

Two recent awardees of the Rural Jump-Start program started businesses in two different rural zones in Colorado and both allow for people to enjoy the great outdoors in all weather and terrains.

Sasquatch Expedition Campers

Sasquatch Expedition Campers–aluminum-made, light weight and fuel efficient campers that can trail behind any vehicle.

At the height of the COVID-19 quarantine lockdown, two friends, Kass Kremer and Daryl Magner, decided to get out of their houses and into nature for a camping trip in Silverton, a small town located in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. As they settled in for the evening, they noticed families leaving the area to go back home after a day in the mountains. They were disappointed that these families were missing out on a major part of the outdoors experience: watching the sunset and sleeping under the stars. This led them down the path of developing Sasquatch Expedition Campers–aluminum-made, light weight and fuel efficient campers that can trail behind any vehicle. These campers are equipped with on-demand hot water, a kitchen including a fridge and an extra-large battery, and can be outfitted with 120 inverter and solar panels.
 
San Juan County has been designated by the Colorado Economic Development Commission as an economically distressed county and thus the Rural Jump-Start program awarded Sasquatch Expedition Campers up to $20,000 in operating support and $10,000 for four new hires. Sasquatch Campers intends to hire six new hires in the next four years and is working closely with Fort Lewis College to offer unpaid internship opportunities for current students. 
 
After spending over 10 years visiting Silverton, Kremer knew this was a place to grow a life and business. “Silverton is a town full of friendly and resilient people who work hard to keep the town unique, retain its character, and fight to keep it as a community that everyone can have an opportunity to thrive in,” said Kremer. “Bringing manufacturing into Silverton creates year-round, living wage employment, and the Rural Jump-Start program will help Sasquatch Expedition Campers achieve that.” Sasquatch Expedition Campers will soon be manufactured in a boarding house which once served miners who worked out of the local mining facility.

Learn more about Sasquatch Expedition Campers on their website sasquatch-campers.com.

View photos of the campers:
  1. Highland 48 & Highland 60 – this line of camper is a sleep-in cab style outfitted with a queen bed (Highland 60), or a more compact option with a 48” wide mattress (Highland 48). The cab is insulated, and campers can include an optional LP heating system 
  2. Smuggler – this smaller, more compact camper is designed for a rooftop tent to be installed on top and cargo to be hauled in the cab.

Town Hall Outdoor Co. 

Town Hall Outdoor Co._children’s outdoor clothing company

Many outdoor clothing brands call Colorado home, and specifically, 21 outdoor brands have established roots in Steamboat Springs, often all getting together for “garage beers” to chat and help each other out. This is why it was a no-brainer for Robin Hall to start a children’s outdoor clothing company, Town Hall Outdoor Co. and utilize the Rural Jump-Start program for support. Town Hall Outdoor Co. designs sustainably-made outdoor apparel, using as much recycled material as possible. It currently sells jackets and pants and has plans for a summer and fall line with fleeces and windproof apparel. All of the work done for the business is from local talent, right down to the web design and videography.

Robin Hall to start a children’s outdoor clothing company, Town Hall Outdoor Co

Because Routt County is a Tier One Just Transition community, meaning they are diversifying away from coal-dependent economic development strategies, the Rural Jump-Start program awarded Town Hall Outdoor Co. up to $40,000 in operating support and $15,000 for three new hires. Town Hall Outdoor Co. intends to hire up to eight people in the next four years.

group of people sitting around a fire, representing the company town hall outdoor co.

Hall’s commitment to the Steamboat Springs community is reflected in the name of the company as its mission is to have a positive impact on the planet, to their neighbors, and everyone is welcome. “The Rural Jump-Start program allowed us to stay rural, give back to this town and grow a business in a hot bed for entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Hall. 

Check out Town Hall Outdoor Co.’s website at townhallco.com and read more features of this innovative business in 5280 Magazine and the Steamboat Pilot