One partnership ends as another begins for Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center
For 23 years the Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center has played a huge role in Steamboat Springs, promoting and facilitating effective planning for new business startups, with a helping hand from Colorado Mountain Collage.
In November, however, the center will join forces with the Routt County Economic Development Partnership, ending a partnership with the college that dates back to 1999.
Randy Rudasics, manager of the entrepreneurship center, said the program — which had helped launch several local startups — is important for the community and will continue to develop under the new partnership.
“I’m optimistic that this will result in a long-term future for business entrepreneurial support services in our community,” Rudasics said. “The college has funded the program for 23 years, and I think it’s fair to say they’ve done their share.”
Scott Ford started the program, which included an incubator, two decades ago with CMC offering local startup businesses office space in Bogue Hall.
“The entrepreneurship center fostered a culture of entrepreneurship, and that’s one of the core tenants of economic development,” Ford said. “Some of the businesses that start may never be any bigger than a little, tiny pepper seed, and others will grow into big oak trees — you just don’t know. What this program does is create a place that fosters that culture. Randy has done a great job with it, and now it’s a place where people come to learn about how to start businesses and they can get resources.”
Over the years the center has found a home in Bogue Hall, then inside the new academic center and even at the Honey Stinger headquarters after the college added a nursing simulation lab in the new academic building for CMC’s growing nursing program.
Earlier this year, the center moved again after Honey Stinger expanded into the space where the incubator had been to address Honey Stinger’s rapid growth. Rudasics started working out of his home and was forced to close the incubator.
“I started considering a place and a way to sustain (the entrepreneurship center) beyond the host,” Rudasics said. “The Routt County Economic Development Partnership — John Bristol’s spinoff from the chamber — seemed like a good place and a logical place to host it in the future.”
In March Rudasics moved into his new office, and the center continues to offer critical services for new startups, including mentoring, counseling, seminars and workshops. He said it’s also a place to learn about what’s happening in the region and the state in terms of entrepreneurial support, such as lending and government programs.
“The only big difference is we won’t have a physical space,” Rudasics said.
At the same time, Bristol said bringing the center under the umbrella of the Routt County Economic Development Partnership is a good fit.
“I always worked closely with Randy and the entrepreneurship center, and as dynamics changed for the entrepreneurship center and Colorado Mountain College, we started to have conversations,” Bristol said. “We realized that this would probably be the best long-term option for the entrepreneurship center to have sustainability and position the program for continued success.”
Bristol said his goal with the economic development partnership is to create programs that support and help retain established businesses across Routt County. However, he understands that supporting new startup businesses is also important.
“I’m just thrilled to have the opportunity to work closer with Randy,” Bristol said. “It’s also nice to bring the Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center underneath the our umbrella as a cornerstone program.”
JC Norling, vice president and campus dean for CMC Steamboat Springs, said he is also thrilled to see the economic development partnership and entrepreneurship center join forces, and thanked Rudasics for his efforts with the center.
“I just have so much respect for Randy Rudasics, and all he’s offered the college and the community over the years,” Norling said. “With all the changes that were going on, the college was always committed to maintaining the entrepreneurship services in the community, and this was the best way to do that.”
Norling’s hope is this move will provide the center with more resources, and he thinks the arrangement fits into a model that is used in other communities where entrepreneurship centers are often run out of nonprofits.
“There’s a lot of ways to do it, but this seemed like a great idea,” Norling said. “We all worked on it together, and the college also wants to maintain a relationship with Routt County Economic Development Partnership, whether it’s assistance with grants or use of our space.
“We are excited to keep the relationship going, and this is going to be a great way for the Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center to keep its brand and transition to this new entity that is looking to expand its services with economic development not only in Steamboat, but across Northwest Colorado and Routt County.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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