IGNACIO – Gov. Jared Polis and state officials announced Tuesday at Ignacio Community Library that the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and town of Ignacio will receive economic development assistance as part of a statewide program.
The town and the tribe will participate in the 2020 Rural Technical Assistance Program, offered by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, or OEDIT. The program provides economic development resources and strategies for rural communities across the state. OEDIT accepted Ignacio into two programs, and the tribe will take part in a small-business development program.
“This year’s awardees really have set big, bold goals for their communities and have demonstrated the experience and drive and ability to deliver on those goals,” Polis said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing the impact that you make.”
Tribal Council members, Ignacio town trustees, small-business owners, Growth Fund leaders and others packed into the second floor of the library to hear Polis’ opening statement and Betsy Markey, executive director of OEDIT, announce the 2020 Rural Technical Assistance Program recipients.
In his opening statement, Polis emphasized supporting clean and renewable energy, cutting red tape around rural broadband development and making changes to increase health care savings. He highlighted the state’s commitment to fund the water plan and to bring financing and technology to farmers and ranchers.
These areas are some of the building blocks of the economic ecosystem, Markey said. For the RTAP program, the goal is to assist those communities in accomplishing their economic goals, she said.
Polis said RTAP is one way local communities can take control of their own destinies. Through the program, communities can leverage state partnerships and resources to take economic development into their own hands, he said.
RTAP developed out of the Colorado Blueprint, a 2011 community-driven, statewide strategy to spur Colorado’s economy. The strategy focused on business development and job growth. In 2015, Colorado Blueprint 2.0 created the RTAP initiatives, according to the 2018 annual evaluation report for the program.
“We see tremendous drive and determination in greater Colorado communities, but there’s a critical gap in their access to resources and capital that brings ideas to fruition,” wrote Jill McGanahan, communications manager for Colorado OEDIT, in an email. “RTAP provides that access to the resources and subject matter experts that put rural ideas and innovation on equal footing with our urban areas.”
This year, RTAP accepted 18 rural community applicants into seven core programs that focus on developing tourism, outdoor recreation, entrepreneurship, coworking spaces, film festivals and community identity.
The Southern Ute Indian Tribe will participate in the Certified Small Business Community program, offered by the Colorado Small Business Development Center.
The program helps rural communities attract and retain entrepreneurs and small businesses. Recipients receive up to $30,000 to complete an action plan and up to $10,000 in coaching from the Colorado SBDC network. The certification gives recipients access to statewide promotion through SBDC and OEDIT to attract entrepreneurs.
The town of Ignacio will be part of two programs: the Community Placemaking initiative and the Creativity Lab of Colorado.
“I think it’s exciting,” said Marcia Vining, Ignacio library director and one of the writers for the Community Placemaking application. She hopes to see more community members get involved in developing the town’s identity.
“When the community is creating it, you don’t lose those things that the community values,” she said. “We’ll just build on the good that’s here.”
The Creativity Lab of Colorado program offers a community guide for nurturing creative projects; innovation and entrepreneurship with the help of the Creativity Lab of Colorado, a public-private nonprofit; and partnership with Colorado Creative Industries and other community partners. Ignacio took its first steps toward developing a creative district through Colorado Creative Industries this year.
The Community Placemaking program helps communities create a “sense of place.” The program is guided by the Colorado OEDIT, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and Community Builders, a community planning nonprofit. It offers advisory sessions and a two- to three-day workshop designed to help communities develop local assets and a placemaking strategy.
“Ignacio does get kind of written off,” Vining said. “I think it will start to shine and will have its own identity.”