Brower: We are blessed with a strong entrepreneurial spirit (column) | SkyHiNews.com

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Brower: We are blessed with a strong entrepreneurial spirit (column)

There's a direct link between entrepreneurship and the wealth of regions.

The wealth and prosperity of our little region here in Grand County can be directly linked to our local spirit of entrepreneurship. In Winter Park, Fraser, Tabernash, Granby, Grand Lake, Hot Sulphur Springs, Kremmling and Parshall (yes, even in Parshall) aspiring entrepreneurs have been reaching out for help to succeed in small business. We should be thankful for this growing entrepreneurial culture right here in Grand County.

How do I know this is happening?

First, consider this: In more than five years the Grand Enterprise Initiative has given free and confidential business management coaching to 278 aspiring entrepreneurs. In a county of 14,000 inhabitants, that's a significant reflection of this region's entrepreneurial spirit. The result has been 58 new businesses, 125 new jobs and nearly $5 million of new annual sales for the local economy. That's not counting the 73 jobs retained and five acquisitions we've worked with.

Then consider the work of the DiAnn Butler and the Grand County Office of Economic Development. In nearly five years she has helped many entrepreneurs take part in John Shallert's Destination Bootcamp series in Longmont. She has worked to instill the Disney Way spirit of business values in the county and region. She has advocated for and helped main street improvements and community-wide art culture development. She has acquired considerable grant funding to help assure Grand County's economic resiliency through a joint Grand County Clear Creek County U.S. grant. She's now working on the housing problem that confronts Grand County through assistance from Freeport-McMoran, the company that owns the Henderson Mine and Mill.

DiAnn and I work closely together to connect the dots for all of these aspiring and existing entrepreneurs so they can have the resources in line to succeed.

But the point here isn't really our work. It's the entrepreneurial spirit of all the local small businesses who reach out in an honest desire to succeed. Their ambition is what makes our community grow. Their ambition is what creates an increasingly vibrant economy that is growing, slowly but surely.

If you don't think it's growing, just consider the expansion in local revenues derived from sales taxes throughout the county in the last three years. Increases have ranged from 10% to 25% annually in towns across the county. These are taxes that pay for local government at the county and town levels and which help pay for important community services. Consider the fact that there are many more jobs available in the county than there are people to fill them. Consider the fact that real estate sales are climbing and that inventory is dwindling, fast.

For much of this we can give thanks for the ambition of our local small business community. And the local small business community is important. Just walk down the street of any of our towns and start counting the "small" operations. Start adding up the numbers of employees and it quickly becomes clear that the number of jobs offered through small business here mirrors national trends. Nationally, more than 55 percent of jobs are provided by small business — and that's a sector that continues to grow.

I don't want to sugar coat reality in this cheerleading session. The truth is that it's difficult to be an entrepreneur in Grand County. A seasonal economy, a relatively small resident population, unique weather challenges, relative isolation and a spread-out and diversified county make it tougher to make a buck in business in Grand County than in many places.

And yet I've seen many entrepreneurs overcome these obstacles and turn them into opportunities to succeed. These are people who temper their expectations, understand the market, fine-tune their products and services and then manage their money in just the right way so that their customers are happy and so that the businesses enjoy a healthy bottom line.

It's the passion, imagination, energy and intelligence of our local residents that is driving this growing resurgence of an entrepreneurial spirit in our county.

For that, we should be thankful.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.