“Grow Your Own”- Supporting Local Small Businesses as an Economic Development Tactic

When we think of economic development, the first thing that traditionally comes to mind is some local municipality competitively pursuing a large recruitment opportunity, via ponying up financial or performance incentives to woo a potential major employer.

My view of good economic development is a little different. I compare it to the internal construction of a mattress. There are dozens of springs that do their own job, and support individual parts of the body. Yet, the springs are inter-connected, and need to support the entire body. Good economic development has strong individual “springs” that properly support their area of focus, but also work together in a connected system.

Over the last 20-30 years, fast-growing small businesses have been crucial job creators, while large corporations have eliminated jobs to boost productivity and earnings. However, most of the funding, and the publicity about economic development still revolves around an antiquated “recruitment” model. So, proactive economic development organizations are taking steps, and making investments, to insure a vibrant small business eco-system.

The Cities of Loveland and Fort Collins have thoughtfully invested in small business-support organizations like the Larimer Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Loveland Business Development Center (LBDC), who provide practical “street-smart” business education and assistance, that local entrepreneurs and small businesses need to prosper in the good times, and weather the tough times.

Our organizations deliver this support through three programs:

1)  Free one-on-one confidential consulting with an experienced businessperson
2)  A wide range of business classes/workshops
3)  Connection to useful resources, such as bookkeepers, attorneys, etc.

Supporting local small businesses is a team effort. We are fortunate to work with strategic partners such as:

  • Our local public libraries, who provide outstanding market research support to entrepreneurs, at a time when “casting a wide net” for information is important.
  • Larimer County Workforce Center – provides a wide array of mostly-free services to help businesses with HR issues, employee/employer interface situations, and managerial/supervisory training.
  • Chambers of Commerce – provide important networking connections, and support and advocacy for the small business community.
  • City of Fort Collins and Loveland Sales and Use tax departments – provide responsive timely information on current tax and licensing requirements.
  • Business incubators/accelerators – Organizations like The Innosphere and The Warehouse provide in-depth support and assistance to growing businesses, usually in specific targeted industries.
  • Sponsors who support our mission – Several companies and organizations help us support the local entrepreneur. The Larimer SBDC’s local “host”, Front Range Community College, has significantly supported the program for 30 years this year!

The SBDC and LBDC provided consulting services to over 650 entrepreneurs last year, with another 1000 entrepreneurs attending our training classes/workshops. Investment in our local business people pays dividends to our economy and community.

Mike O’Connell
Larimer SBDC Director

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