The Fort Lewis College School of Business Administration plans to open a business innovation center taking up 7,000 square feet of space in downtown Durango by New Year’s Day.
“We actually have several interns who are working on developing the website, working with marketing and communications on developing the website,” School of Business Administration Dean Steve Elias told about 300 attendees at the 2019 Economic Summit held Wednesday at Sky Ute Casino.
The overarching purpose of the center, to be called the Center of Innovation, will be to spur economic development in Durango and Southwest Colorado. The goal is to open the center by Jan. 1, Elias said.
A main goal of the center will be to create synergies among various entities in the region, including the Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center, the Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs and other economic development agencies.
The center would also create a locus for cooperative efforts among regional governmental agencies, including regional municipalities, counties and tribes.
“We have a great business community. We have a great college, we have great partnerships with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. We want to create synergy among those groups. We want to take what all those groups are doing individually and take them to the next level. That’s a big part of the plan,” Elias said.
Among the priorities of the center will be fostering and developing new business. It will also provide mentorship for businesses, business students and residents looking to start businesses. The center will also focus on increasing internship opportunities for FLC students.
“We have a lot of students who leave campus and want to stay in Durango. We want to help them. To be able to help the local economy by starting businesses that would be phenomenal,” Elias said. “We have people in the community with ideas. We want to help them bring those ideas to fruition.”
The center would provide a venue for mentors to work with business owners and employees and provide a central hub that would provide information about access to and provision of capital, Elias said.
A lease for an expected 7,000-square-foot center has not yet been signed, but Elias said it will be on Main Avenue in downtown Durango.
“Over the last year or so, we’ve gone over and back between campus-town, campus-town, and we’ve made an informed decision, done our due diligence, we are going to be downtown. Not in the back of El Rancho,” he said to laughter.
“But we have not yet signed our lease. So, I’ll simply say we are looking at about 7,000 square feet of Class A real estate on Main, which is going to be awesome.”