Businesses enmeshed in agency hodgepodge

Groups work to better serve economic drivers

Llewellyn Enlarge photo


The La Plata County Economic Development Alliance will meet with 60 locally based companies this summer to better understand their needs and help them navigate the confusing maze of business-assistance organizations.

Durango has four organizations – the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance, the Durango Chamber of Commerce, the Southwest Business Development Center and Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado – that are often mistaken for one another or presumed to offer overlapping services, said Roger Zalneraitis, the Economic Development Alliance’s executive director.

When the myriad state and federal government agencies are added to the equation (many with their own jumble of letters), potential sources of help can be lost in the shuffle.

Without knowing all the available tools, Zalneraitis said, business owners can miss out on contract offers, efficient new software or much-needed bridge loans.

“(Owners) have enough on their minds. It isn’t their job to be familiar and distinguish between all the acronyms out there,” Zalneraitis said.

Jay Davis heads the Economic Development Alliance’s Business and Retention Committee, and is responsible for orchestrating the face-to-face meetings.

The mission is three-fold: to construct a database of information about local companies and their goals, to uncover specific impediments to growth and to raise awareness of existing resources.

Zalneraitis said he has heard complaints ranging from chronic parking meter trouble to communication breakdowns with the state procurement office.

“We do everything in our power to resolve those issues,” he said.

The summer meetings are part of a long-term outreach strategy. Davis will compile the responses and present a report this fall. His findings will determine the Economic Development Alliance’s agenda in 2013 and beyond.

The four Durango organizations work together, but each has a separate focus.

The Alliance mostly assists companies that export goods and services out of the county.

The Chamber of Commerce encourages consumption habits that keep dollars circulating locally. It also serves as a first point of contact for businesses looking to network.

“Like the hub of a bicycle wheel,” said Executive Director Jack Llewellyn.

The Small Business Development Center, located at Fort Lewis College, offers workshops on day-to-day operational concerns, such as payroll, tax law and marketing.

Region 9 helps startups and other small firms find loans, including microenterprise loans to qualifying businesses with five employees or fewer.

“This project is all about retaining, expanding and attracting jobs to La Plata County,” Zalneraitis said. “We don’t want to lose any companies because they feel doing business is a burden.”

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