Building Up Businesses

11/30/2021

The Fort Lewis College Center for Innovation is one of the recipients of the Build to Scale Grant Program funded by the EDA. The grant will allow the Center to expand its current opportunities to include mentorship, more coworking spaces, and more partnerships with local and aspiring entrepreneurs. Sponsored by Service Master and Closets Plus

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The Build To Scale Program is a funding opportunity put out by the US Economic Development Administration. And it is in our case, it was a funding opportunity over three years to get resources for the Center For Innovation, which is located downtown. And so really the whole purpose of the program is economic development throughout the United States. It's a federal opportunity.

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Our purpose is really all things entrepreneurship, small business development, economic development, you name it in conjunction with the School of Business up at Fort Lewis College. And so the grant opportunity was a perfect fit for us because the USEDA wants to facilitate economic development. And I think currently there's an emphasis on rural communities and we serve Southwest Colorado. And so our region is the southern part of the state, which is rural. And so the funding helps us do our job, whether it's through helping entrepreneurs, students, you name it, establish businesses who may be wanting to grow that funding helps us fulfill that mission.

We're really looking to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem here, meaning that I think we've all had an idea of a business, and it's really scary to take that leap. So we really want to provide all the resources that someone might need to take something from idea to full growth here at the center.

Especially now that we've gotten our EDA funding, we are all about providing mentoring, consulting internships. We've actually had a donor who's provided funding if a startup would like to work with the intern for example, but doesn't have room in their budget for an intern. We've had a donor endow some funds that would allow for us to actually cover the cost of the intern. We're working with two startups right now who are in the Colorado office of Economic Development in International Trade or OED. And so it's a really cool reciprocal relationship. We help them with mentoring and interns and the like, space if they need space, but then also their CEOs and founders give talks for example at the innovation center, part of our grant is actually funding the speaker series through the center.

We are standing in the center for innovation. We're located in the main mall on the second floor. So above RGPs, that's a great reference point for most people. We offer coworking private office and event space. And right now we are in the coworking side of the center. We see ourselves as a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs because we do also house Startup Colorado, and the Small Business Development Center. And so if you're starting or growing a business, we have the resources here in house that you have to walk 10 feet away to get those from your desk.

There were different tracks. So Build To Scale, we received a build grant, which all in total was about $1.5 million. Half of that is federal dollars. Half of that is matching dollars that we were responsible for raising and documenting. And the build program is really the early stage funding opportunities, to scale is maybe three years from now. After our funding has run out from the build program, we can apply for a scale grant, which actually lets us do more, even take things to a larger scale. We're doing pretty amazing things. And we've talked about being in a rural community that might not have access to things in Denver or Boulder or Fort Collins or anything along the front range. I think if you look at the work we are doing, though, we're doing pretty amazing things. The one thing I would want someone watching this to come away with is that we're doing our absolute best through the business school, college as a whole, and the Center For Innovation to really enhance the economy for Southwest Colorado and we're really passionate about that.

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