Over the weekend, Governor John Hickenlooper visited several businesses on the Western Slope. In Delta County he toured business that received REDI grants. The Rural Economic Development Initiative gives out grants to rural businesses that are looking to expand.
“Colorado has the fastest growing economy in America right now, just two weeks ago Business Insider Magazine ranked Colorado as the number one economy in America, but that economic growth isn’t everywhere in state. We can see that the rural parts of Colorado were not coming out of the recession as rapidly as the big cities," says Hickenlooper.
"So the idea behind these small, very targeted grants: they’re all about jobs and they’re all about Colorado. It's about home grown business that are trying to make that big leap. A project like this, I think our grant is 10%-15% of their expansion costs, but it’s that little bit that keeps the expansion here, keeps the jobs here.”
Several businesses received the grants. The Amarna Company, which creates a non-stick spray for industrial food production, received $137,000 dollars. TK Holdings in Delta got a $50,000 grant to remodel a space into a shop and headquarters office. Big B's Organic Juices and Hard Cider in Hotchkiss got $30,000 to improve its manufacturing and distribution facility, and Diversified Innovative Products Company received $25,000 dollars to keep it in Delta and hire up to three new people.
Part of the reason for the grants was the economic impact from the closure from the Elk Creek Mine late last year.
“I think energy development will always be a part of the Western Slope, I really do, but I think we have to diversify," says Hickenlooper, "when I came out to Colorado in the 70’s, pretty much the biggest industry in the whole state was energy. Then when the price collapsed in ’84…I got laid off in ’86 and the whole company got sold, everyone got laid off. I was out of work for over two years. It’s a boom and bust thing like the energy business always has been. When it collapses, it’s hard to find other jobs. I had to end up opening a brew pub (laughs).
"But I think the idea with these business is we see these expansions, now we’re diversifying the economic base here. Hopefully in the future recessions, if we keep doing this, we’ll have an economy that won’t be so buffeted by the economic recessions and expansions," says Hickenlooper.