Southwest Colorado’s program to diversify the local economy by aiding startup companies that look like promising job-creators has been chosen to participate in a national program to support rural communities in creating digital-age jobs.
Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs, better known as SCAPE, was one of 10 economic development organizations in rural America chosen to take part in the 2020 Rural Innovation Initiative.
As part of the Rural Innovation Initiative, SCAPE will have access to experts from the Center on Rural Innovation and its sister organization Rural Innovation Strategies Inc. SCAPE will also be able to collaborate with other top rural economic development organizations that train local residents in digital skills and that nurture startups involved in the digital economy.
Elizabeth Marsh, director of SCAPE, said, “Having the assistance of the Rural Innovation Strategies group will help us take stock of our resources and opportunities in planning for a large collaborative grant proposal. RISI is providing SCAPE with tremendous technical assistance.”
Participation in the Rural Innovation Initiative, she said, will allow SCAPE direct access to organizations identified as successful in initiating and developing best economic development practices.
The timing of participation in the Rural Innovation Initiative, she said, is fortuitous as SCAPE and other economic development organizations plan to move under one roof at the Fort Lewis College Center for Innovation, which plans to open in the Main Mall in late February.
The overarching purpose of the Center for Innovation, will be to spur economic development in Durango and Southwest Colorado, said Steve Elias, dean of the FLC School of Business.
“In addition to the brand new Center for Innovation, our region has an outstanding business community and ever-growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. Working with the Rural Innovation Initiative will add tremendous value and momentum to all of the innovative activities taking place throughout our rural communities,” Elias said in a news release announcing SCAPE’s participation in the initiative.
Marsh said having all the economic development programs under one roof will create efficiencies for business owners and entrepreneurs.
“We envision a shared calendar of all the area workshops and trainings, and an easy path for people to figure out at what point they need the Small Business Development Center, SCAPE, Region 9, a bank loan or investment capital,” she said.
The Center for Innovation also will provide businesses with enhanced access to FLC School of Business professors, resources, internships, trainings and students who are ready for careers, Marsh said.
Matt Dunne, executive director of RISI and founder of the Center on Rural Innovation, said in a news release that SCAPE earned participation in the Rural Innovation Initiative through its efforts aiding startups that help the regional economy become more economically resilient.
“We look forward to working with SCAPE to take their work to the next level as they develop and implement a plan that builds additional partnerships to bring entrepreneurship resources under one roof.”