OEDIT Adjusts Division Organization to Better Serve Rural Communities

OEDIT announces Rural Opportunity Office as standalone division

The Rural Opportunity Office (ROO) at the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) is transitioning from a subdivision of the Business Support division to a free-standing division to increase support for rural communities across Colorado. With this transition, Katharina Papenbrock has been promoted to division director and will continue to serve as the rural representative for the western region of the state.

“Rural communities across Colorado were already facing unique challenges that were made even more apparent during the pandemic,” said Patrick Meyers, Executive Director of OEDIT. “Transitioning this office as a standalone division allows us to further fulfill our goals to foster an economy that benefits everyone and offer focused support and technical assistance to businesses throughout rural Colorado.”

The ROO was first established in November 2019 to expand rural prosperity and provide economic development support through a fully remote team with each employee living in the region they represent.

“As a former business owner in Ouray and having worked with other small businesses across the western region, I’ve lived and seen the struggle business owners face to sustain their companies while living in an area with limited resources,'' said Kat Papenbrock, Rural Opportunity Office Director. “I’m excited to lead this new division and strong team to bring opportunity to all regions of Colorado.”

Previously, the ROO operated under the Business Support and Rural Prosperity division to provide support to small businesses in rural areas, including a regional webinar series in partnership with the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), Startup Colorado and other regional small business support organizations. This program served 6,000 businesses and stakeholders over a six-month period.

The reorganization of the Rural Opportunity Office will allow it to leverage the significant relationships it has built within the Business Support division including the SBDC network, Minority Business Office and the Colorado Employee Ownership Office. These partnerships will continue to connect rural communities and small businesses with more than 150 OEDIT programs. The following programs and priorities will fall under the ROO division:

  • The revamped Rural Technical Assistance Program, to launch in Spring 2022, provides free access to economic development educational materials hosted on an online learning platform, as well as the traditional application-based individualized technical support and implementation funding.
  • The Rural Roadmaps Program, funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and in partnership with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, provides strategic recovery and resilience-focused roadmap, technical assistance and implementation support to over 150 rural communities across 16 regional teams.
  • A new data dashboard featuring key economic indicators for rural communities at the county level will launch in Spring 2022. 
  • The statewide Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy will begin in Spring 2022 with support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act Statewide Planning Research & Network non-competitive grant cycle.
  • Strategic work with the Office of Just Transition within the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment for rural communities impacted by the coal transition.