USDA Grants $100,000 to New First Southwest Bank Center for Economic Opportunity at Adams State University


Adams State University's new First Southwest Bank Center for Economic Opportunity will lead a collaborative community development program across the rural San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado.

The new First Southwest Bank Center for Economic Opportunity at Adams State University will be opening its doors in January of 2018 and is focused on community based strategic planning and trainings to promote local business startups, and thereby improve job creation, job retention, and local income levels.

Adams State University's expertise in business education and community partnerships, and a proven model implemented by the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, will inform the project design and approach.

"Adams State University is excited to house the First Southwest Bank Center for Economic Opportunity. This Center is an excellent example of a public/private partnership designed to better the San Luis Valley," said Dr. Beverlee J. McClure, Adams State University President. "The Center will also provide our students a unique opportunity to participate in economic and community development."

Dedicated to leveraging the San Luis Valley's (SLV) resources in an effective and sustainable entrepreneurship initiative, that strengthens the capacity of low-income and diverse communities to grow locally owned businesses, the new First Southwest Bank Center for Economic Opportunity is committed to:

1) Community Capacity and Leadership Building;

2) Entrepreneurship Development and Job Creation; and

3) Resource Network (NetWork SLV) Capacity Building.

With USDA grant matching provided by First Southwest Bank, the center's name illustrates First Southwest Bank's steadfast commitment to invest in the economic and social doers of rural Colorado.

"We're excited about the future opportunities for business growth in the San Luis Valley, a place with a unique heritage and incredible people," said Kent Curtis, First Southwest Bank CEO. "And First Southwest Bank is truly committed to building more small businesses, networks and opportunities for our rural Colorado community."

In all, the initiative will achieve the following overarching goals:

1) A shared vision for entrepreneurship and climate for successful small business development that improves the lives and livelihoods of residents across the SLV

2) A deeper understanding of the barriers faced by entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups and solutions to address systemic change

3) Stronger communities through recognition of local and regional resources and assets

4) Improved capacity in multiple low-income communities to mentor and foster the success of local entrepreneurs, supported by a strong resource network

5) Valuable work experience and training for student interns in community and business development

6) New value chains for local business that optimize local talent and resources

7) Job creation and retention, including an estimated 80 new jobs by the end of Year 3

8) A sustainability plan and community endowment strategy to support successful efforts beyond the 3-year grant period.

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet said, "This grant will help fuel economic development in the San Luis Valley by promoting entrepreneurship, creating jobs, and investing in local talent. The joint work between Adams State University and First Southwest Bank is an example of how public-private partnerships empower state and local government officials to think outside of the box to make our communities stronger."

For more information on the new First Southwest Center for Economic Opportunity, please contact Julie Waechter.