The Technical College of the Rockies is the recipient of a $680,000 grant awarded by the Economic Development Administration (EDA), as part of the 2017 Assistance to Coal Communities initiative. This grant will support the start-up operations of the ENGAGE (ENergy - Growth - AGriculture & Entrepreneurship) Innovation Project, which will be operated under the umbrella of TCR. ENGAGE will provide the necessary entrepreneurial support to help launch new businesses in Delta County with a special focus on value-added food manufacturing, energy, and ag-related businesses. All Delta County businesses will benefit from ENGAGE as access to workforce development, and business resources will grow TCR.
A press release from the Technical College of the Rockies notes that Delta County is beginning the slow recovery from the loss of coal mining jobs. ENGAGE will be one of the major tools in the toolbox to help support our community, and give the resources and support to entrepreneurs who are looking to start or grow their business.
"EDA recognized the wide community support and partnership in this project," said Michael Klouser, Technical College of the Rockies director. "Delta County has recognized the need to come together on a catalytic project. With the leadership and involvement from Technical College of the Rockies, Delta County School District, Delta County Economic Development, Delta County, Region 10, Southwest Innovation Corridor, Edesia Community Kitchen and the City of Delta we have created a project that supports business growth and development, job training for the 21st century and creates an eco-system for innovation."
According to Delta County Commissioner Doug Atchley, "ENGAGE will be a game changer for Delta County. Delta County has a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and ENGAGE will help harness that spirit. This project will put Delta County on the map as the place to grow great ideas and businesses."
An ENGAGE director will be hired to lead the initiative. An agricultural coordinator will coordinate the kitchen incubator program and other ag-related initiatives. TCR is currently seeking applications for the ENGAGE director position.
EDA awarded a total of $30 million to support 35 projects in 15 states under the 2017 Assistance to Coal Communities initiative. The funding will assist locally-driven efforts to communities and regions severely impacted by the declining use of coal through activities and programs that support economic diversification, job creation, capital investment, workforce development and re-employment opportunities.
Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R), along with U.S. Representative Scott Tipton (R-CO-3), applauded the EDA effort to support business growth in rural Colorado.
"These grants provide critical funding to assist rural communities with workforce development and job creation efforts," Bennet said. "We will continue our work with the EDA in Delta and Montrose counties to assist communities that are struggling with job losses in the coal industry."
"This is great news for our state," Gardner said. "The economic development funding will help advance broadband connectivity on the Western Slope, while also aiding new job growth in the agriculture industry in Delta County and the surrounding areas."
"Many parts of rural Colorado are struggling to spark economic growth and job creation," Tipton said. "I commend the efforts made by Delta-Montrose Technical College and the Telluride Foundation to secure these grants, and I know they will go a long way towards supporting families and small businesses in the communities."