Polis Administration Announces New SBDC Satellite Services to Support Business Development and Job Creation in Northwest Colorado

Today, Governor Polis and the Office of Economic Development & International Trade (OEDIT) announced Coal Transition Community funding to establish a Northwest Small Business Development Center (SBDC) satellite office in northwest Colorado. The new office will serve Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties, supporting the creation and growth of small businesses as local communities look to diversify their economies and create new jobs.

“The SBDC helps local businesses grow, creates jobs and supports economic growth. We are thrilled to expand these services in northwest Colorado, helping local communities diversify their economies and create new opportunities for people to save money,” said Governor Polis.

The funding announced today is part of an ongoing effort by the Polis Administration, OEDIT and the Office of Just Transition (OJT) to help communities that have relied on coal mines and coal-fired power plants for employment find new sources of jobs and property tax income. Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties are home to four coal mines and two power plants. With the power plants scheduled to close in the coming years, there will be significant job losses and a reduction in property tax revenue. Small businesses represent one way for local communities to diversify their economies, replace tax revenues and create jobs. A 2023 Office of Just Transition (OJT) survey of coal-industry workers in the region found 19% already operate a small business, 21% expressed interest in training or starting a new business, and 46% expressed interest in small business training and assistance for their partner or an immediate family member.

“In Colorado, small businesses employ nearly half of all our employees, and in our rural communities, that percentage is often higher. Entrepreneurs and small businesses are truly an economic driver for our state, and we’re pleased to expand support that can help northwest Colorado support the growth of its small businesses,” said Eve Lieberman, OEDIT Executive Director.

Given the demonstrated local interest in small business training, the Northwest SBDC recognized an opportunity to provide additional and dedicated “boots-on-the-ground” support as well as technical know-how to navigate the ongoing transition from coal. Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties are geographically separated from the rest of the 10-county Northwest SBDC service area, and a satellite office offers a unique opportunity to increase services.

“Business consulting and training are proven economic development tools for rural economies, and a strategy that has been prioritized by the local communities. The SBDC has the tools and resources, and we are ready to meaningfully expand capacity in the coal region,” said Erin McCuskey, Northwest SBDC Regional Director. “The SBDC’s role is to help entrepreneurs focus their time where it will have the greatest impact. Whether that be identifying the right funding opportunities or understanding their responsibilities under the latest employment legislation, our team partners with businesses to help maximize outputs.” 

The day-to-day operations of the satellite office will be directly managed by one staff member and a team of contract consultants, with additional support from the Northwest SBDC team and the Colorado SBDC network. The satellite team will work across the three-county region to build relationships and connect small business owners and entrepreneurs to one-on-one training and consulting. Businesses will also be referred to free online trainings on foundational topics such as business planning, formation, finance, marketing, and human resources. In-person training will be provided based on demand, and at a minimum will include a monthly cohort-style meeting. 

“The SBDC has a proven track record supporting Colorado’s small businesses. Last year, the network helped create and retain over 2,500 jobs and assisted small businesses in increasing sales by over $84 million,” said Hannah Krieger, State Director of the Colorado SBDC Network. “We look forward to increasing services in northwest Colorado and contributing to stronger, more diversified communities.” 

Previous Coal Transition Community funding awarded to northwest Colorado in coordination with the Colorado Office of Just Transition will support economic development projects for Pioneers Medical Center in Meeker, business support programs in Yampa, a proposed pumped storage hydropower project near Craig, and South Routt Medical Center in Oak Creek.   

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