ALAMOSA — The Board of Trustees for Adams State University approved naming of the new First Southwest Bank Center for Economic Opportunity at its regular meeting on campus, December 15. The center is being established through a three-year, $100,000 grant from the USDA and matching funds from the First Southwest Community Fund.
The center will open in January and focus on community-based strategic planning and trainings to promote local business startups, thereby improving job creation, job retention, and local income levels. The center will be located in the Adams State Community Partnerships building at the corner of Hwy. 160 and Edgemont.
Adams State University’s expertise in business education and community partnerships, combined with a proven model implemented by the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship (CRE), will inform the project design and approach. CRE has an impressive track record of helping rural communities by integrating customized strategies in entrepreneurship, including community coaching.
The First Southwest Bank Center for Economic Opportunity also will collaborate with and support the SLV Small Business Development Center, Alamosa County Economic Development Corporation, SLV Development Resources Group, Upper Rio Grande Economic Development, local chambers of commerce, and Colorado Workforce Centers.
Headquartered in Alamosa, First Southwest Bank has six branches in the San Luis Valley and southwestern Colorado. First Southwest Bank CEO Kent Curtis said the new center is a prime example of the bank’s mission: cultivating valuable relationships, investing in economic and social doers, and fostering a well-lived rural Colorado culture. As a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), a designation for banks that serve underserved areas of the country, First Southwest Bank receives financial awards from the U.S. Treasury and other government entities.
“I especially want to thank our Senior VP/Commercial Lender Delzia Worley for her diligence and community-minded efforts in the valley, because that was the primary reason we received this particular financial award. It is vital to us to deploy those award monies back into the communities we’re serving. First Southwest Bank is absolutely committed to building more small businesses, networks, and opportunities for our rural Colorado community,” Curtis said.
“The First Southwest Bank Center for Economic Opportunity is one way Adams State is fulfilling our commitment to make the entire valley our campus. This center is an excellent example of a public/private partnership designed to better the San Luis Valley,” said Adams State President Beverlee J. McClure, who serves on the board of the First Southwest Community Fund. “The Center will also provide our students a unique opportunity to participate in economic and community development through paid internships.”
The First Southwest Bank Center for Economic Opportunity will leverage the SLV’s resources in an effective and sustainable entrepreneurship initiative that strengthens the capacity of low-income and diverse communities to grow locally owned businesses. It is committed to: community capacity and leadership building, entrepreneurship development and job creation, and resource network (NetWork SLV) capacity building.
“Our goal is to create a supportive entrepreneurial environment in the valley to foster projects that may range from value-added agriculture to technology creation. This will build a center for people to come together, expand, and make the San Luis Valley a thriving environment for entrepreneurs,” Curtis added. One of the concepts he hopes to see developed is that of co-working spaces, an upscale business incubator that is technology driven and helps create an entrepreneurial environment. He is also enthusiastic about developing a “Leadership Alamosa” program like those used in other communities. Participants enroll in a 6-8 week course and commit to taking community leadership roles. “It helps them better understand the infrastructure of a community in all aspects and become more educated to assume leadership roles.”
Senator Michael Bennet said, “This grant will help fuel economic development in the San Luis Valley. 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.”