College taking business lead

Director sees new center at CMC playing role in developing Steamboat's economic diversity

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By taking Colorado Mountain College's Small Business Development Center under his wing, Scott Ford is helping to tacakle one of Steamboat's biggest challenges: developing economic diversity.

"It has a great deal of potential to promote economic diversity here. Because every little bit helps," Ford said of the center. "I want to help folks identify economic opportunities here, and then teach them how to best proceed."

This is not the first time that the Small Business Development Center has offered entrepreneurial guidance and business counseling to Steamboat residents, free of charge. It is, however, the first time that the center has been up and running in several years.

"Promoting economic diversity is a goal that was certainly at the genesis of getting the SBDC going again," Ford said. "The chamber is glad to see one becoming active again here."

Small Business Development Centers are open at each of the CMC campuses statewide. The goal of the centers is to give people the tools and information they need to turn a good idea into a lucrative small business.

What's your opportunity cost? How do you price your services or product? What is your business plan? What does your market analysis look like? Those are some of the oftentimes intimidating questions that Ford will help potential business owners answer.

"I help folks see Steamboat with a different set of eyes," Ford said. "We go through a methodical, systematic process of analyzing the market here. We take a good idea, and look at Steamboat from an economic angle, to see if it really is a good idea."

Ford said that entrepreneurs in Steamboat face unique challenges due to the nature of the community.

"Analyzing the market is a real challenge. Of course that happens anywhere, but here, there are unique related issues," he said.

Infrastructure is something entrepreneurs need to be aware of here, he said. If a new business requires a strong technological base and advanced telecommunications, the prospective business operator needs to be aware of some of the telecommunications infrastructure challenges facing the community.

"Who are you marketing to?" Ford said. "That's another unique challenge in Steamboat. It's such a fluid market. People are coming and going all the time. And there's a lot of diversity."

Ford, who has worked for the chamber and is a member of the Economic Development Committee, also said Steamboat needs more financing options, a suggestion with which the chamber and the Economic Development Council strongly agree.

The EDC is trying to organize a way to partner up with the college and the Small Business Development Center to create an enterprise center. One of the EDC's ideas, which came straight out of discussion at this year's Economic Summit, is to identify venture capitalists or a pool of investors to help finance new, struggling companies.

"We want to heighten the success rate for new businesses," chamber Executive Vice President Sandy Evans Hall said. "We want to ensure a good success rate. The SBDC is going to teach people how to create a sound business plan, and we want to take things a step further by helping the actual businesses get started."

The EDC has been meeting with statewide Small Business Development Center coordinator Joe Livingston to see how the SBDC can be expanded, and how the EDC may be able to oversee an enterprise system to promote economic diversity and improve the success rates of start-up businesses.

"There are a lot of details to work out," Evans Hall said.

The EDC has requested an additional $5,000 from the city, which it intends to use to reach those goals. If it gets the funding, the EDC, Colorado Mountain College and the Small Business Development Center plan to iron out the details of their goals and needs in the next six months, Evans Hall said.

For now, current business owners, beginning entrepreneurs and anyone with a business idea in the back of their mind can contact Ford at the SBDC (870-4491) for one-on-one business counseling. Eventually, the EDC and SBDC will be able to match retired and professional mentors with entrepreneurs seeking information on a specific type of business venture.

There will be seminars offered this fall on how to start your own business and how to create a business plan. Ford is anticipating teaching a for-credit class at the college by the spring semester.

"I can't imagine a more wonderful job," Ford said of his new position at the SBDC. "I would love to teach some of these classes to the high school students too."

Ford also is working part time at the high school as a career counselor, and believes business education would open doors to Steamboat youth.

"My goal is to tap into the expertise and resources of the community," Ford said. "That includes 17-year-olds and 70-year-olds. There are so many great folks in this town, and so much opportunity."

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