A video examining entrepreneurial rural businesses in Durango and the development of a local business accelerator program to help them grow has been produced by a Vermont nonprofit – helping spread the word that Southwest Colorado is more than spectacular mountains for hiking, skiing and mining.
Rebekah Collinsworth, communications director with the Center on Rural Innovation of Hartland, Vermont, said the nonprofit has been impressed by efforts in Southwest Colorado to diversify the economy beyond tourism and natural resources extraction.
The video is a bit of a cherry on top of the sundae for the Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs.
Previously, SCAPE was selected as one of nine rural-based economic development programs chosen by the Center on Rural Innovation to participate in the 2020 Rural Innovation Initiative, which provides SCAPE with technical assistance to support its efforts to create digital economy jobs in Southwest Colorado.
Collinsworth said the video is one of three that have been produced with its Rural Innovation Initiative partners with an aim to highlight rural economic development successes. It can be seen at youtu.be/osM6ty3xN0M.
“It’s a goal of ours to really shift the narrative about rural America to really show the positive and hopeful things that are happening there – to show people that innovation and entrepreneurship is alive and well in rural communities,” she said. “And, you know, Durango is such an amazing example of what can be done when there’s such a community that supports its entrepreneurs.”
Besides being on the Center on Rural Innovation’s website, Collinsworth said the video is shown to economic development officials and agencies across the country.
“Part of it is, to inspire people who might examining this type of work to look at what’s possible and what’s being done, and being done well,” she said.
In the video, Daudi Barnes, founder and president of Agile Space Industries in Durango, which is developing its own thruster maneuvering engines for spacecraft, describes his discovery of Southwest Colorado and the attributes that make it ideal for his high-tech venture.
Describing Southwest Colorado, Barnes said, “It’s a unique opportunity to do very focused work and then have a great lifestyle.”
The video moderator notes Durango historically has relied on tourism and the oil and gas industry, but that has not proved economically sustainable. The video then features firms exploring industries outside Durango’s historic economic roots.
Erin Neer, CEO of MUNIRevs, a firm that has developed tax-collection software for municipal governments, with its headquarters located above Carver Brewing Co., noted the benefits she received from SCAPE.
“You learn from mentors who have been there, done that. They ask you the right questions. They help you hone in on what the next product or the next model might be,” she says in the video.
Elizabeth Marsh, director of SCAPE, said the video will help spread the word that Durango and Southwest Colorado are evolving beyond a hub for outdoor recreation and natural resources extraction.
“We’re excited to be kind of shown as an example of what you can do in a rural area – to shine a light on successful companies such as Agile and MUNIRevs. When people think of rural America, they don’t usually think of rocket engines and a software service company, she said.
Laura Lewis Marchino, executive director of Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado, explains the genesis of SCAPE, and Region 9’s investment in the business accelerator and the rational behind it.
She said: “Region 9 invested in SCAPE primarily because we identified that there was a gap in the capital stack when businesses are starting up, after they’ve used up all their money from friends, family and fools, they have to get debt financing.
“We did not have those small-level investors in our region or community at all. With SCAPE, we created a program that would have angel investors that would provide businesses with supports to get to the point they could grow and then get venture capital or go public, where everyone could invest in them.”