The new executive director of the Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center is bringing a strong background in academia, small business and economic development in rural areas to her new job.
Betty M.E. “Liz” Ross is also the first SBDC director in Colorado to be of Native American descent. She is an Alaska Native with Inupiaq tribal affiliation and one of a few Native American women with a doctorate in business administration.
In her new role she will lead the SBDC which serves new startups across the southwest corner of the state.
Ross left her position as the masters of business administration program director at the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Management to lead the SBDC. She was also on staff at the College of Rural and Community Development in Fairbanks.
She was looking for a position in Colorado to be near her 91-year-old mother in Colorado Springs, and when she found a job description for the SBDC director she thought: “That sounds like I would have written it about me,” she said.
Before Ross started teaching, she was the chairman of the board of the 13th Alaska Native Regional Corporation in Seattle. The federal government set up the private companies, and each one earns money for Alaska Native shareholders.
While working for the corporation and in other roles, she helped Native Americans in rural areas complete feasibility studies, write business plans and set up small businesses.
Working with small businesses appeals to her because often entrepreneurs are the most motivated to learn.
“Knowing that I had a tiny little part in helping them makes me feel good,” she said.
Ross is replacing Joe Keck who retired from the center in April.