The Department of Local Affairs Allocates Over $4.7M Into Economic Development Initiatives Across 26 Communities in Colorado

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Media Contact: Chynna Cowart | 303-656-7464

As part of Covid-19 recovery, the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) Program received $5M in stimulus funding in addition to the $780,000 in funding received from the state legislature annually. 

“By issuing these economic development grants to our rural communities, we can ensure all of Colorado gets the opportunity to thrive. I’m proud that the Department of Local Affairs can be a critical partner in these efforts,” said Rick Garcia, Executive Director, the Department of Local Affairs.

Since the passage of the statute, and the first stimulus supported grant cycle being awarded in October 2021, the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) has directly allocated $4,733,626 into supporting the economic development of existing communities across the state of Colorado. With 26 rural community-driven projects, these program dollars have demonstrated enhanced local economic impact through the positive outcomes in Colorado towns/cities and for their residents.

Rural Economic Development Initiative

The purpose of the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) Program is to help eligible rural communities develop plans and undertake projects to create jobs, drive capital investment, and increase wages to help grow and create resiliency and diversity in the local economy. This program seeks to better serve Colorado’s rural communities by providing a more focused and coordinated effort among state and regional agencies.

Projects that will be funded include plans, construction, programs, and capacity building. All applications must create and retain jobs, either direct or indirect. Projects should fall into one or more of the following categories: 

  • Job creation and retention - Both through direct and indirect means.  

  • Capacity building - Under special circumstances, DOLA will consider funding local economic development capacity. Staff must be tied to a specific outcome, project, and timeline, which contributes to goals of job creation, business attraction/retention, and economic resilience.

  • Economic resilience - Economic resilience is the ability of a community’s economy and systems that support the economy to withstand disruption and thrive in the face of change. 

  • Supports entrepreneurial ecosystems - Entrepreneurial ecosystems provide trainings, networking opportunities, and infrastructure to support local entrepreneurs.      

Community members should identify every project within a comprehensive and holistic framework as a priority. The most successful applications to this program are those from counties with less than 50,000 people, and from communities with fewer than 25,000 people. Some example of successful projects from 2021 are:

REDI 21-274: City of Gunnison, Gunnison Business Attraction and Expansion Support Program: With this grant of $215,000, the city of Gunnison has administered a subgrant program that has helped 5 local businesses to expand their operations. Businesses that received awards range from small family owned restaurants to local manufacturers. It is anticipated that the expansions will allow these businesses to create at least 35 new combined jobs in downtown Gunnison.

“The funds awarded to the City of Gunnison through the REDI program are providing direct support to five local businesses that are positioned for growth. These five businesses will implement expansion plans that will create jobs. One example is a playground equipment manufacturer that will acquire casting equipment to create molds in house and expand their product offerings,” said Russ Forrest, City Manager for the City of Gunnison, “While these projects are still in the implementation phase, we are very excited about supporting local entrepreneurs with a vision for growth in our city. Offering this REDI opportunity to existing businesses sent a powerful message that their long-standing investments in our local economy are valued.  The outpouring of interest in the program was overwhelming, and we hope to be able to create similar opportunities in years to come.”

REDI 21-265: Town of Center, REAT Center Youth Enterprise Zone: The Town of Center has partnered with local schools to provide business and entrepreneurship training for local high school youth. The program provides the resources and training for these youth to start their own micro-businesses, and gives them skills around business and financial management of those microbusinesses. The hope is that this program will help provide the foundation for these budding young entrepreneurs to open their own small businesses in Center upon graduation from high school or college. 

“DOLA’s willingness to support an innovative project that straddles a few different categories is rather unique and definitely contributed to our ability to take creative risks. The staff support is beyond anything I've experienced on any past grants,” said Mikela Tarlow, Lead Administrator and Program Manager for the REDI-funded Youth Enterprise Program in the Town of Center, “ Our REDI grant funded a Youth Enterprise Zone in Center, Colorado that offers a glide path from original student projects into pop up businesses and more sustained business endeavors.”

With another school year to go, the Youth Enterprise Zone in Center, Colorado has had great successes such as:

  • The Center Car Show attracted hundreds of visitors and delivered a profit. A new three-student team will expand the original event with music, food trucks and a second related event and is being mentored by the original team.
  • Using survey research, two students consulted with University of Colorado Denver graduate students, a planning team, and the town council. This initial enterprise may expand to become a freelance opinion research service. 
  • Blue Lemon peer coaching merged with Play Anywhere workshops and received a grant to offer a summer program for middle school students They are now adding new programming under the umbrella of the Blue Lemon Collective.

REDI 21-245: Chaffee County, Chaffee County Central Mountain Resilient Entrepreneur Ecosystem Chaffee County and the Chaffee County EDC have partnered to create a business accelerator program called Central Mountain Entrepreneurs (CME) targeted towards help existing businesses in Salida and Buena Vista to be able to grow their businesses through providing mentorship and connecting them to investment opportunities. To date, CME has helped 10 local businesses to identify new opportunities for growth and expansion, as well as connecting them to the financial resources to fund that growth.

“We have bold ambitions to build a year-round economy in Chaffee County that rivals our unsurpassed mountain lifestyle. To put it simply, we could not have made such huge strides toward that goal in the past year without the financial support and expertise that DOLA provides,” said Jake Rishavy, Executive Director of the Chaffee County EDC and its Central Mountain Entrepreneurs community, “Our REDI grant funded an eight-week accelerator program, a 30-strong expert mentor network, a local angel investment network, ArkAngels, and two sold out community events. Taken together, we've galvanized a level of support for this work in a place where it is a new approach, and that has amplified our early impact and strengthened our work in the future.”

The Next Round of the Rural Economic Development Initiative Grant Program

While this fiscal year's REDI Program is no longer supported by stimulus funding, and instead solely comes from the department's regular legislative allocation of $780,000, there is still $521,193 available for this upcoming cycle. 

The 2022 - 2023 Round 2 REDI grant cycle opened on September 1, 2022 and closes September 30, 2022. Applicants are encouraged to reach out to DOLA’s Regional Managers for guidance as they develop their projects. All applications must be submitted via the online grants portal:

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