Rural Jump-Start Program

The Rural Jump-Start Program helps economically distressed communities attract new businesses and jobs. Counties, municipalities, and higher education institutions work together to apply for this program.

When a community is a designated rural jump-start zone, new businesses can receive incentive payments and tax relief including credits, exemptions, and refunds from:

  • state income tax
  • state sales and use tax
  • county and municipal personal property taxes

Employees of new businesses receive a tax credit for 100% of state income taxes on their wages for work in the rural jump-start zone.

The Rural Jump-Start Program began in January 2016 and will accept applications through December 31, 2025.

Overview

Type: Program

For: Counties, municipalities, and higher education institutions

Application deadline: Rolling

OEDIT division: Business Funding and Incentives

In partnership with counties, the Designated Institute of Higher Education applies to become the sponsor of a rural jump-start zone. The Colorado Economic Development Commission (EDC) approves rural jump-start status in counties that meet certain economic distress criteria.

The EDC can approve an unlimited number of rural jump-start zones. Each municipality can contain only one rural jump-start zone. A rural jump-start zone may not be larger than a county. 

Once the EDC approves a rural jump-start zone, the zone will exist until the county loses its economically distressed status. An area will qualify as a rural jump-start zone based on population and economically distressed measures, as explained below.

Population
The area needs to be in a county with a population of fewer than 250,000 people.

Economic distress measures
Rural jump-start zones need to meet at least three of these requirements:

  • per capita income is at least 20% below the state average
  • county-wide personal income is at least 20% below the state average
  • average unemployment level during the last five years is at least 20% above the state average
  • during the past 5 to 10 years, the area lost population in the workforce age range
  • percent of students eligible for free school lunch is higher than the state average
  • designated as an Enhanced Rural Enterprise Zone
  • be in a metropolitan statistical area as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau

Municipalities

If a county participates in the program, municipalities in the county are not automatically enrolled. A county or Designated Institute of Higher Education cannot force a municipality to participate in the Rural Jump-Start Program.

To be eligible for the Rural Jump-Start Program, a municipality needs to:

  • be in a county that the Colorado Economic Development Commission designated as economically distressed (the municipality itself does not need the designation)
  • be in a county that passed a rural jump-start tax relief resolution that the Colorado Economic Development Commission has approved
  • work with a Designated Institute of Higher Education, which leads the application
  • pass a resolution to participate in the program

The Rural Jump-Start Tax Credit helps new businesses start in or move into rural, economically distressed areas and hire new employees. In a designated rural jump-start zone, benefits include relief from:

  • state income taxes for the new business
  • state sales and use tax for the business
  • county personal property taxes for the business (100%)
  • municipal personal property taxes for the business (in participating municipalities)
  • state income taxes for the employee (100% credit on wages from the business for work in the rural jump-start zone)

Local governments also sometimes provide additional tax relief from other county or municipal taxes.

After the Colorado Economic Development Commission (EDC) approves a company’s rural jump-start application, the company and its eligible employees have four years of tax relief, with the possibility of extending it another four years. Your business may use rural jump-start tax credits only for each year you receive them. These tax credits do not carry forward to future years.

Businesses must apply through a Designated Institute of Higher Education (DIHE). A DIHE is associated with specific counties, and not every DIHE can work in every rural jump-start zone.

Rural jump-start counties

Each year, the Colorado Economic Development Commission (EDC) designates economically distressed counties. A county keeps the designation for three years regardless of:

  • any changes in economic conditions during those three years
  • whether the county passes a resolution to participate
  • the fact that the EDC approves the county for rural jump-start status

These counties are currently rural jump-start zones: Archuleta, Clear Creek, Delta, Dolores, Las Animas, Logan, Mesa, Moffat, Montezuma, Montrose, Otero, Prowers, Rio Blanco, Routt, San Juan

These counties are designated as economically distressed. They are eligible to be rural jump-start zones, but they have not yet applied to the program: Alamosa, Baca, Bent, Cheyenne, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, Cyster, Fremont, Hinsdale, Huerfano, Jackson, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Lake, Lincoln, Mineral, Morgan, Phillips, Pueblo, Rio Grande, Saguache, Sedgwick, Washington, Yuma
 

Eligible Designated Institutes of Higher Education

A Designated Institute of Higher Education (DIHE) needs to lead the rural jump-start zone application. Only a public school may serve as a DIHE. A private higher education institution may participate as a partner, but not lead an application

To use this map, type in your address and it will direct you to the closest Designated Institute of Higher Education.

A Designated Institute of Higher Education (DIHE) needs to lead and submit the application online in the OEDIT application portal. A DIHE can submit an application at any time.

Before applying, the DIHE should know the boundaries of the zone, the participating municipalities, and any other relevant aspects of the zone.

County and municipality tax relief resolutions

Counties and participating municipalities need to pass tax relief resolutions to become a rural jump-start zone. The resolution needs to state that the jurisdiction will not impose a business personal property tax on new businesses. Partial relief from business personal property tax does not qualify. The jurisdiction needs to offer tax relief for up to eight years for each business.

Jurisdictions may also adopt resolutions with incentive payments and other tax relief including credits, exemptions, and refunds.

Unlike counties, municipalities may limit resolutions to specific businesses. Municipalities may restrict resolutions to certain geographic areas of the municipality.

After the county and participating municipalities pass resolutions, the DIHE can apply for rural jump-start zone designation.

Application materials

The Designated Institute of Higher Education (DIHE) need to include these materials with the application:

  • list of all jurisdictions that have passed or are expected to pass tax relief resolutions
  • copies of the county and municipality/ies tax relief resolutions
  • list all economic development organizations working with the DIHE
  • description of the geographic boundaries of the zone
  • a strategy to implement the Rural Jump-Start Program
  • a report of all businesses in the pipeline

If the DIHE wants to modify the zone by changing boundaries, adding or removing municipalities, the DIHE needs to file a separate application through the OEDIT application portal.

Review process

After you submit your application, the Colorado Economic Development Commission (EDC) will review it at the next EDC meeting. EDC meetings are on the third Thursday of every month. The EDC will approve, deny, or defer the application. The DIHE will be notified of the decision.

An eligible institute may apply to be a Designated Institute of Higher Education (DIHE) before forming or while forming a rural jump-start zone.

Apply online through the OEDIT application portal. Log in or create a new account. New users are manually added to the portal for security reasons, so it may take several days to activate your account.

Application materials

In the application, the institution needs to prove that it:

  • intends to actively execute in its role in the rural jump-start zone
  • has the resources to manage the program
  • has designated a point person to work with businesses and our office

Every institution needs to:

  • maintain a strategic plan for the rural jump-start zone
  • adopt a conflict of interest policy
  • keep a written record of all conflict of interest disclosures
  • provide disclosures for the last calendar year to the Colorado Economic Development Commission (EDC) by January 31 of each year

The conflict of interest policy needs to state that:

  • a representative of the institution may not use the relationship between the institution and the business for the representative’s private benefit
  • a person who sells goods or services to the institution, an employee of such person, or a person with a business interest in such person’s business shall not vote on or participate on behalf of the institution in any transaction with such business
  • if a representative of the institution is aware of any actual or potential conflict of interest, he or she shall advise the chief academic officers or executive director of the institution of the conflict

Review process

After you submit your application, the Colorado Economic Development Commission (EDC) will review it at the next EDC meeting. EDC meetings are on the third Thursday of every month. The EDC will approve, deny, or defer the application. The DIHE will be notified of the decision.

Program Manager

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