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DIDF’s gift of nearly $1 million will bolster FLC’s workforce development training efforts

DIDF’s gift of nearly $1 million will bolster FLC’s workforce development training efforts

DURANGO, Colo.— A half-century ago, business leaders created the Durango Industrial Development Foundation to support the community's economic vitality.

While the foundation is sunsetting, that mission will continue.

The Durango Industrial Development Endowment has given the Fort Lewis College Foundation over $700,000 to establish the Durango Industrial Development Endowment.

The endowment will support workforce programs, entrepreneurship education and mentoring, and career readiness training. FLC will also receive $250,000 to kickstart creating and delivering its workplace development program over three years.

FLC will use the funds to offer workforce development programs to raise career-ready skills for both FLC students and adult learners who are not seeking degrees but want credentials that lead to better-paying jobs that meet the region's needs.

Melissa Mount“Our focus was to use some of the funding to accelerate our workforce development programs initially, but we are also listening to our industry partners about what they're looking for,” said Melissa Mount, vice president of advancement and CEO of Fort Lewis College Foundation. “We recognize how significant this is for Fort Lewis and the region now and in the long term. This generous grant will fuel FLC’s ability to constantly evolve to meet the needs of our new learning economy.”

FLC’s workforce development team is analyzing local and regional data to determine areas of greatest need and greatest opportunity. Certificates are being developed to drive economic mobility in key industries, from health care to renewable energy.

Alana Romans, FLC’s chief strategy officer, says the College has already hired a program manager. The first two training programs, to be offered this summer, will teach leadership skills.

Alana Romans“Our workforce initiative is called FLC at Work,” Romans said. “The funding from DIDF is bolstering our efforts to provide that solid foundation for workforce initiatives to grow. In addition to the institutional dollars FLC is committing to advance the workforce initiatives, the DIDF funds are allowing us to build out a suite of micro-credentials that are adaptive, responsive, and nimble. This is an exciting opportunity to expand our outreach to serve nontraditional learners across the region."

Earlier this year, FLC launched a medical assistant certification program. Within 48 hours, all 20 spots were filled, with a quarter of the students coming from the community. There’s now a waiting list for the course.

Mario Martinez, ProvostMario Martinez, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the combination of DIDF funds for immediate use and an endowment with sustaining payouts will provide a strong foundation for long-term success, sustainability, and future revenue.

“We're the major educational provider in the region. We want to make opportunities available for community members who want to explore new careers," Martinez said. “Workforce development is a priority for us, and our responsibility from a mission standpoint is to serve our region. One of our strategic imperatives is a partnership with industry and local government to see how we can work together to provide education and skill training. This very much fits with who we are."

The allocation of the funds reflects more than two years of work by the DIDF board. DIDF was launched in the 1970s to develop the Bodo Industrial Park. Following a pivot away from a second development planned near Durango-La Plata County Airport, the DIDF board decided to sell the property, disband, and disburse its remaining funds to ensure the money is used in perpetuity toward its core mission.

Jason Portz, market president at Bank of Colorado, DIDF board chairman, and Fort Lewis College Foundation board member, believes that the decision will benefit the community for years to come.

"We really wanted something that would keep the DIDF mission alive and support the local business community,” Portz said. “We can do that by making it easier for them to find workers who can afford to live here and helping workers gain the skills they need to help those businesses grow. Fort Lewis College does so much for the community and will be able to create more programs that will help our local businesses."

When the DIDF board decided to close the foundation and disburse nearly $2 million in funds, they asked Fort Lewis College and the La Plata Economic Development Alliance for proposals that would continue the organization’s mission of supporting economic vitality and job creation.

After analyzing the proposals, the DIDF board split funding between them. FLC and the Alliance are already partners in workforce development training.

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