Governor Jared Polis wants to make small businesses a priority of his administration and during a presentation to government leaders last week in Burgdorf, he spoke of the need to reduce barriers to those starting new businesses.
The governor, who got his start founding several startups, discussed topics such as reducing incorporation costs and improving access to affordable housing.
“You have to have a place to live if you’re starting a business,” Polis said.
Polis discussed the impact housing can have on entrepreneurs, especially in Colorado’s mountain towns. The conversation in the room focused on Colorado’s recently passed Bill 22-1117, which could direct tax revenues from hotels and other accommodations to affordable housing for workers in areas dependent on tourism.
Adam Shake and Josh Cramer of Estes Park Economic Development Corp. talked about their community’s efforts to encourage entrepreneurship.
Estes Park’s small size and location have led to a median home price north of $600,000.
With the stakes high for business, Estes Park executives had to get creative to help small businesses.
In addition to advocating for municipal broadband for Estes Park residents, another program adopted after the 2013 flood was the Business Accelerator Services of Estes, which provides training to cohorts of local business owners. .
“Entrepreneurship is a community sport,” Shake said.
Estes’ Business Accelerator Services is not the only incubator in the region. Fort Collins-based Innosphere, Loveland-based Warehouse Business Accelerator, and the Small Business Development Center all sent representatives to advise local leaders.
The summit began with a keynote presentation by Niroj Bhattarai, professor of economics at Colorado State University.
Bhattarai warned attendees that only 28% of Colorado startup founders stay in Colorado after a successful launch. He advised local leaders to strike the right balance by lowering some, but not all, of the barriers to doing business.
“Some friction is necessary, even from an entrepreneur’s perspective,” Bhattarai said.
After Bhattarai’s presentation, panels of local entrepreneurs offered advice on how to make cities more welcoming to small businesses. City Star Brewing’s Whitney Way advised cities to make their permitting processes more transparent and improve infrastructure in commercial areas.
“These are things that benefit people in your community, but also attract business,” Way said.
Other local businesses offered updates on opportunities they found in Burgdorf and beyond. Nick Doucette of rocket engine company Ursa Major Technologies Inc. spoke about the infrastructure Berthoud already has in place to help his business.
“We sold this thing, we can build it, but where can we test a rocket engine?”
Ursa Major was able to acquire a Burgdorf test site previously owned by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. to safely test the company’s small engines.
Ursa Major is not the only space company in Burgdorf. Agile RF Systems LLC is building a new facility in town with high ceilings specifically designed to test space antennas. Green building company EnergyLogic Inc. also has a home in Burgdorf.
One suggestion to help small business owners was the relaxation of zoning requirements to allow contractors to work from home. Many incubators in the area offer spaces for small businesses to tap into right now, from the new wet lab space at Innosphere to industrial space in the Warehouse Business Accelerator and Desk Chair LLC office space in Loveland.
Jim Doherty, community manager of Desk Chair, was optimistic about the role of space in small businesses in the area.
“It works; we provide that environment for people to work,” Doherty said.
Entrepreneurship in northern Colorado will likely continue to grow as the region recovers from the pandemic and continues to grow.
“I think we have a lot to do here, but it takes a lot of deliberate effort,” Polis said.
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