Boosting Rural Colorado’s Strong Economy: Polis Administration Announces Regional Planning Grants through Rural Opportunity Office

Today, the Polis administration and Rural Opportunity Office within the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) announced implementation grants for economic development regions across Colorado, providing $40,000 grants to help fund the development and implementation of Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies (CEDS). A planning tool encouraged by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), CEDS have been shown to help regional economic development initiatives attract new investments and lead to more consistent, positive outcomes when funding is secured.

“Colorado's rural communities are home to strong and thriving businesses and this exciting grant builds upon our work to boost our strong economy and make sure Colorado remains the best place to live, work, and do business,” said Gov. Polis.

“Providing funding for CEDS development continues the Polis Administration’s work to build a Colorado economy that works for everyone. State economic development efforts that take into account regional priorities and strategies to grow strong, diversified economies result in better long-term economic growth,” said Eve Lieberman, OEDIT Executive Director.

The funding announcement comes as Colorado becomes one of six states selected to participate in a policy academy run by the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) to boost the success of economic development initiatives by aligning state and regional strategies and actions. The Rural Opportunity Office will join statewide partners Region 10, the Economic Development Council of Colorado (EDCC), and East Central Council of Governments in a collaborative learning environment to generate more impactful, coordinated, and collaborative economic development programs.

“It is an honor to be selected for the CREC Policy Academy and a testament to the work the Rural Opportunity Office and its partners are doing to foster and sustain a thriving economy across Colorado. We look forward to implementing the strategies we develop while also growing inter-state relationships that support our efforts,” said Katharina Papenbrock, Director of the Rural Opportunity Office.

Colorado is among the first states to implement a model of economic development planning that incorporates regional goals and outcomes into statewide strategies. Referred to as “nesting,” the EDA is encouraging this type of planning through the development of regional and statewide CEDS.

Over the past 40 years, EDA studies have shown that grants awarded to regions with CEDS tend to have more consistent, positive outcomes. They are often a requirement for federal funding as well. Within Colorado, 10 regions have established CEDS and 4 do not.

“By offering grants for CEDS development and implementation, the Rural Opportunity Office wants to ensure that all 14 economic development regions across Colorado have the opportunity to experience more sustained, long term economic growth and the ability to apply for future EDA funding," said Greg Thomason, Senior Program Manager and Eastern Rural Representative with the Rural Opportunity Office.

Eligible Colorado regions without a certified CEDS plan are being invited to develop one through a non-competitive, reimbursable grant process. The funding, made possible by funding from the EDA, will cover up to $40,000 toward the cost of a contractor to help develop a new regional CEDS plan.

Similarly, Colorado economic development regions with existing CEDS plans have the opportunity to apply for non-competitive, reimbursement grants of $40,000 to complete a qualified project or project phases identified in their plan. This program is funded through the Rural Technical Assistance program.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with OEDIT and economic development stakeholders across Colorado in CREC’s Policy Academy, which aligns directly with EDCC’s newly board-led initiative to focus on strengthening Colorado’s economy by aligning regional and statewide economic development efforts,” said Kim Woodworth, EDCC’s Executive Director.

The work enabled by these regional CEDS implementation grants will ultimately inform statewide economic development planning. The Rural Opportunity Office will be coordinating a statewide CEDS process intended to incorporate regional plans and goals, benefit all of Colorado’s 64 counties, facilitate future applications to EDA programs and create economic development strategies for key Colorado industries.

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