Located within the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, the Business Development & Rural Prosperity division supports the economic development needs of rural communities and small business throughout Colorado.
The division was established by combining existing units to better align with Governor Polis’ priorities of simplifying support for Colorado businesses and growing rural economic development throughout the state. The division works alongside local economic development offices (EDOs) to support small businesses and promote their long-term financial health. These units include the following:
Rural Opportunity Representatives and the Rural Technical Assistance Program
In November 2019, OEDIT hired three Rural Opportunity Representatives (ROR) to give Colorado’s rural communities the direct support and access needed to utilize OEDIT’s rural programs. The RORs are embedded within their respective regions and coordinate rural strategies, collaborate with local EDOs and serve as a conduit to the Small Business Development Centers, Minority Business Office and the Employee Ownership Network. In addition, the RORs oversee multiple projects including the Rural Technical Assistance Program (RTAP).
RTAP, a series of technical assistance initiatives, leverages state partnerships and specialized resources to address the unique economic development goals of rural Colorado. This community-driven effort turns regional feedback on local economic needs into a catalyst for economic growth.
Small Business Development Center Network
The Colorado Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network provides free and low-cost consulting and training to aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners. Dedicated to the on-going success of small business owners across Colorado, the SBDC Network has 15 centers and over 300 business consultants to support the entrepreneurs in your community and help build up local economies.
Minority Business Office
The Colorado Minority Business Office (MBO) is dedicated to advancing business opportunities by advocating for Colorado’s growing minority, women and veteran-owned businesses. The MBO programs facilitate access to certifications, government contracts and networking opportunities.
To further its reach, the MBO has recently partnered with Commerce City, the North Metro SBDC, Adelante Community Development and Front Range Community College on the Community Bridge Project. This project offers a variety of bilingual free business resources and consultations for entrepreneurs as they start or expand their business. The Community Bridge project is embedded in the City it serves, located at the Commerce City Small Business Resource Center. The MBO hopes to expand the program to other communities.
Employee Ownership Network
One of Colorado’s newest business support priorities is the Employee Ownership Network (EON), created in 2019 to establish a robust and wide-reaching network of technical support for businesses considering employee ownership models.
As small business owners look to retirement, they often lack an exit strategy. Upon retirement, many small business owners cannot find a buyer and are forced to close the business. The shared loss is felt by its employees and customers. Employee-ownership provides an opportunity to sell the business to the employees, who are vested in the community’s success.
The EON educates businesses and communities on the economic and community benefits of employee-owned businesses; identifying barriers to the development and advancement of employee-owned businesses; and, recommending State actions and resources to remove such barriers. The EON has a speakers bureau available to come speak at EDO and community events about the many benefits of employee ownership and answer questions.