The Center for Innovation is officially open for business. The collaborative of small business development organizations will provide small business owners and entrepreneurs development and acceleration strategies from one location in downtown Durango’s Main Mall.
At the grand opening, community members wandered the open office space, a standard startup aesthetic of modern cubicles, exposed concrete walls, and massive whiteboards. Already stuck to the walls was a palette of Post-its, displaying the brainstorming already taking place in the new space for entrepreneurship.
The collaborative houses Fort Lewis College’s Hawk Tank business plan competition, Southern Ute Indian Tribe Entrepreneurs’ Resource Center, Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs, and Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center. Together from one location, the organizations will be able to launch and support more small businesses in Durango.
“Durango has a great business community and there are many groups to help with business growth,” said Steve Elias, dean of the School of Business Administration. “This is an opportunity to work in a more synergistic way and have a greater impact.”
SBDC currently helps small businesses launch and SCAPE scales and accelerates growth for businesses that are already running. SUIT will be set up to work virtually with small business and entrepreneurial-minded tribal members from across the country.
As a major employer and contributor to regional economic development, Fort Lewis College has long wanted to facilitate a collaborative of business development partners, to provide more opportunities to student entrepreneurs and to advance the Durango business scene. Provost Cheryl Nixon said the Center’s location on Main Avenue is symbolic of the College’s commitment to the Durango business community and the partnerships that will push new ideas forward.
“We’re here on Main Avenue, we’re downtown, but this is Fort Lewis,” Nixon said. “Being here on Main Avenue is what makes us feels all of those things when we think innovation - creativity, collaboration, partnerships, and all of that can really come true now that we have this amazing space and that we’re knitted into the community. We just have to open the doors and innovation will start.”
The Center for Innovation will be open to anyone who has an interest in business, or might have an interest. Small business owners and those curious about what it takes to be an entrepreneur can drop in and speak with experts. FLC, SUIT, SCAPE, and SBDC can work with people at any stage of business development.
“I will point out that we are a startup and so I hope you’ll continue to support the Center,” Elias said. “Whether that’s financially, through mentoring or consulting, or maybe there’s a business coming out of the innovation center that you think is worth investing in, we would love any and all of that.”
The Center for Innovation is located in the Main Mall, 835 Main Ave., Unit 221. For more information visit innovation.fortlewis.edu/. To get involved as a local business leader or entrepreneur, contact Steve Elias at 970-247-6737 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To contribute philanthropically to the Center for Innovation, contact Mark Jastorff, vice president for Advancement, at 970-247-7074 or email@example.com.