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Category Archives: Business

BootStrapU Spring Accelerator Completes 7 Week Series at Emergent Campus

Starting on Tuesday, March 9th,  Southern Colorado Innovation Link (SCIL) and Fremont Economic Development Corporation, ran a 7 week Business Accelerator Boot Camp hosted at the Emergent Campus in Florence.

The planned outcomes focused on strategies for success in the participants’ business ventures.  This included a focus on strengths, customers, business fundamentals and networking.

Over 20 people participated in the Boot Camp, representing 7 businesses, Barn Owl Vision, Spile, Fire Age Design, Trustio, GuestNav, Vitalscape Design, SoCo Eats. Each session was kicked off by a notable entrepreneurial keynote, including 3 time TEDx speaker, Jason Sosa, CoinStar co-founder, Aaron Finch, and Cory Finney, Greater Colorado Venture Fund. The keynote recordings can be viewed on the FEDC TechSTART YouTube channel, here.

Starting and running a business is always a challenge in small town, rural America. Even more so in the Covid era. This Boot Camp was meant to help and provide strategies to meet some of those challenges.

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Retail Tourism Sector Partnership Launches Initiative to Support Talent Development Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Sector Partnership Launches Initiative to Support Talent Development Network

Talent Acquisition Through Upskilling a Top Priority for Tourism and Retail Sector Partnership 

 

Florence, Colorado, April 15, 2021: The Region 13 Tourism and Retail Sector Partnership (“TOR”), which is comprised of Fremont, Custer, Lake and Chaffee Counties, recently announced the expansion of engagement efforts to include Kevin Mahmalji of Two Rivers Consulting – to shore up support for initiatives aimed at talent acquisition, and retention through upskilling.

“As small businesses operating within the tourism and retail sectors ramp-up to accommodate the droves of tourists who annually descend upon the Arkansas River Valley for rafting, hiking and other outdoor activities the region is known for, Region 13 Tourism and Retail Sector Partnership will work to empower our local workforce through reskilling and upskilling,” said Brad Rowland, Fremont Economic Development Corporation (FEDC).

Established in 2005 by the State of Colorado, Sector Partnerships facilitate collaboration between business leaders from the same industry within a shared labor market region. In return, business leaders and other stakeholders work with education, workforce development, economic development, and community-based organizations to empower workforce and other competitiveness needs of their industry.

The Region 13 Tourism and Retail Sector Partnership, in collaboration with Pueblo Community College and Colorado Workforce Centers across the region, have partnered with the Colorado Workforce Development Council to promote resources and facilitate training for individuals currently employed in, or recently displaced from the tourism and retail industries to up-skill through the Lives Empowered Training Academy – which has been made possible by a $4.1 million grant from Walmart to the Colorado Workforce Development Council

“There’s no question the economic restrictions imposed during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caused unprecedented challenges for businesses that depend on the annual influx of outdoor enthusiasts and other tourists who flock to the area,” added Jeremy Boswell, Vice President of Park Operations, Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. “With a renewed focus on opening our economy and the easing of government mandated restrictions, I welcome the opportunity to work with businesses across Region 13 Tourism and Retail Sector to attract and develop the talent our industries need to thrive.”

The Region 13 Tourism and Retail Sector Partnership will utilize a variety of cloud based tools to facilitate committee communication across the rural, 4 county region, including Zoom, Basecamp, and Slack, a communication tool used by more than 700,000 organizations around the globe.

About Fremont Economic Development Corporation (FEDC): Fremont Economic Development Corporation is a professional economic development organization focused directly on business attraction, retention and expansion in Fremont County, Colorado. With an established and growing network of business, academic and governmental partners, we directly assist companies with competitive location or expansion projects by connecting them with the right people, the appropriate resources and the most meaningful and relevant information. 

FEDC’s TechSTART program is an award-winning tech sector coworking community, creating an innovation catalyst for rural Colorado. TechSTART facilitates the Upper Arkansas Technology Sector Partnership, working to develop a public and private sector tech ecosystem in Fremont, Custer, Chaffee, and Lake Counties. www.fremontedc.com

For press inquiries, please contact Diana Armstrong, [email protected]

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Emergent Campus Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary as a Hub of Education and Innovation

April 15th, 2021, marks the 100 year anniversary of the dedication of the historic Florence High School, located at 215 Maple Avenue, in Florence, Colorado.

When the Florence High School was constructed in 1921 it was the realization of a dream of a more modern Florence. Before the age of the internet, you had to physically “wow-impress” visitors with actual handsome-in-real-life buildings. Modern, attractive public buildings equaled a thriving successful city. Buildings were the physical representation of the hopes of the community, and the old High School was imbued with the dream of a common education and growing the success of each new generation. Citizens realized then that knowledge was crucial to a prosperous local economy. The Florence business community have always dreamed bigger than their little city and supported the construction of the beautiful high school, one of the very last Classical Era Progressive governmental buildings erected in Southern Colorado.

We were a little late to the game, but we arrived, nonetheless. By 1921 America was recovering from some difficult years, and the Arts and Crafts style had grown in popularity. Architecture moved in a new direction, but happily we were left with this gem of a school.  

Exactly 100 years later there is an economic and educational rebirth at the old Florence High School, and in many ways its foundations are the stately architecture of the school. The impressive schools of this era are in a sense, our American castles. As humans we flock to immense masonry buildings built with careful design and care. The Florence High School is a building you cannot help but be proud of. With its rebirth, a modern workforce can now work from home or anywhere, so where do they want to be? In cool historic buildings that have meaning, where they themselves are helping to create the new meaning of the building and community.

While the Florence High School was aspirational at the time it was built and was probably a little larger than we needed, it was truly on par with buildings of school districts in much larger cities. These American castles are expensive and difficult to maintain community icons. The cost of maintenance of upkeep for our old Florence High School resulted in its matriculation from education, but luckily, it fell into a new chapter of significance almost immediately. It is rare to repurpose such large buildings into anything at all in rural America, and most are bound for the dump despite best efforts of the community. So, to have local business leaders willing to take it on, leveraging the building and history into new jobs, ways of working, and success for local people, that is truly remarkable.

When citizens originally heard about the ownership change to the old campus, they were most worried something would happen to the gorgeous façade. To help protect the historic architecture, it is with great pride that the City Council recently voted to assist the Emergent Campus getting listed on the national Register of Historic Places. With these next steps the building will be protected as a historic landmark and continue to be a source of pride for all children who learned how to be better kids and citizens at that school. The listing will also help to make certain that state grants are available to assist the owners in maintaining the building as a center of education and commerce in Florence. We believe the work and investment on this project will create new meaning for an entirely different generation for the next 100 years.

Guest contributor, Wade Broadhead, is the Planning Director for the City of Florence, Colorado, and has been a National Alliance of Preservation Commission (NAPC), Preservation Trainer, since 2013.

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Reenvisioning Retail Event Information and Registration

Region 13 Tourism and Retail Sector Partnership, in collaboration with Pueblo Community College and Colorado Workforce Centers across the region, have partnered with the Colorado Workforce Development Council to promote resources and facilitate trainings for individuals currently employed in, or recently displaced from the tourism and retail industries through the Lives Empowered Training Academy – which has been made possible by a $4.1 million grant from Walmart to the Colorado Workforce Development Council.

As a result of this cross-sector partnership, Lives Empowered and TalentFOUND, are hosting Reenvisioning Retail – a free, 3-day virtual event to facilitate discussions about equitable strategies for redeploying displaced workers through upskilling and reskilling to accelerate economic recovery. Click here for a special message from Keynote speaker Corinne Hancock, a globally recognized expert in building world-class leaders, effective teams, and cultural proficiency in chaotic environments.

Register Today: Reenvisioning Retail Registration  

With the expansion of its outreach and engagement program, and a strategy that focuses on intense collaboration and workforce empowerment, Region 13 Tourism and Retail Sector Partnership will continue to create economic opportunities through talent acquisition and upskilling.

Contact your event organizer with any questions you have about this event at: [email protected]

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Op-Ed: Opportunity Zone Reforms on the Horizon in Congress

In 2017, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which established the framework for Opportunity Zones (OZs) – a federal designation that encourages investments in distressed communities across the country. In short, investors can defer taxes on profits from investments that are applied toward opportunity funds if they commit to community revitalization efforts for a minimum of 10 years.

 

As a result of the bill’s passage, 126 census tracts were designated as Opportunity Zones in Colorado. This includes portions of Fremont, Chaffee, Lake, Alamosa and several other rural counties. Looking at Colorado’s Congressional Delegation, support for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was a mixed bag.

 

In the House, Colorado Republicans Scott Tipton, Doug Lamborn, Mike Coffman and Ken Buck all voted in favor – while Democrats Diana Degette, Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter opposed the bill. In the Senate, Senator Michael Bennet joined fellow Democrats in opposition while Cory Gardner fell in line with his Republican colleagues in support of the measure.

 

Of course there has been several changes to the make-up of Colorado’s Congressional Delegation since the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Most notably, Jared Polis who represented Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, won his bid for governor in 2018 and Republican Cory Gardner, who was elected to the Senate in 2014, lost his reelection to former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

 

Additionally, Mike Coffman who represented Colorado’s 6th Congressional District is now the Mayor of Aurora and Scott Tipton, who represented Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, lost his reelection to political newcomer Lauren Boebert during the primaries.

 

Click here to read more about the future of Opportunity Zones from The Pueblo Chieftain!

 

https://www.chieftain.com/story/opinion/columns/guest/2021/03/18/op-ed-opportunity-zones-hot-topic-congress-plenty-debate/4754852001/

 

Kevin Mahmalji is the founder and principal of Two Rivers Consulting and currently assists Fremont County Economic Development Corporation with strategic planning and communications.

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Star Wars Battlefront Podcast Rebranded to Expand Focus

5 years ago, in the cold of a Colorado November night, I started what was then called The Star Wars Battlefront Podcast. We covered everything that involved the video game series Star Wars Battlefront. After 200 episodes and over 250,000 downloads, it was time to freshen things up. So I began the process of rebranding.

In late April of 2020, support ended for the game I had covered for years, but it wasn’t the end for the podcast. I had built up a great community, with great connections and friends. I knew I wanted to continue producing content, but to do that, I needed to shift things around with the branding. 

I had experimented in the past with a spinoff podcast called Star Wars Uplink in 2017, but it didn’t hold up at the time. For one, the world of Star Wars gaming was only Battlefront. Electronic Arts, a large publisher in the gaming world, held an exclusivity license to produce Star Wars games until 2023 and released Star Wars games infrequently. Because of the lack of other Star Wars games around that time, there wasn’t a huge want or need for the show. People wanted to hear about Battlefront, and for that, they went to the main show: SWBP. 

But the branding of that name was strong and recognizable. In Walker Assault, the premiere game mode of Star Wars Battlefront (2015), your goal was to activate or deactivate uplink points, so the community was already comfortable with the phrase. I decided to build out the brand further, instead of calling it Star Wars Uplink, I wanted to build up a brand that can be expanded into something more than just Star Wars should the need arise. 

To mark the final episode of the Star Wars Battlefront Podcast, I produced a documentary telling the story of Star Wars Battlefront 2’s redemption from a controversial launch to one of the greatest Star Wars experiences made. On October 1st of 2020, I released the 200th episode of the Star Wars Battlefront Podcast and began the rebrand process for the podcast, twitter account, and YouTube channel. 

Since the rebrand we’ve actually grown, welcoming many new listeners, and followers. At the time of the rebrand we had just hit 250,000 downloads on just the audio offerings, and since the rebrand we’ve surpassed 300,000 downloads! Growing our YouTube channel to over 1,000 subscribers, the Twitter page to over 1,400, and developing our awesome community further. Now I run the podcast from the Emergent Campus, I record in my studio space, edit from my office and collaborate with people both virtually and in person from all over the world.

 

Sage Goodwin – Podcaster, Videographer, Graphic Designer

tyedyesheep.com

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How Serious is your Digital Workspace Security?

Virtual Application Delivery must start with a Zero Trust model

 

Brad Rowland, Partner and GM, Emergent Campus
December 11th, 2020

 

Long before Covid and the rush to remote work, employers and employees have been bending the boundaries of a traditional perimeter, keeping security pros in constant catchup mode. It is not new to see everyone from individual consultants to F100 workers checking email at the coffee shop, the airport, or from a client’s site. While smartphone adoption was one of the first technologies to break free of the boundaries of a secure office network, trends like BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), running business-critical SaaS applications in the public cloud, and massive access to metro co-working have helped to altogether erode the practical nature of perimeter security, leading computing giants like Microsoft to declare it obsolete

In fact, the transition from rigidly established IT system perimeters (de-perimeterisation) was highlighted as early as 2003, at a CISO (Chief Information Security Officers) group meeting hosted by Cisco, which later became the Jericho Forum. The group went on to define and publish such works as the Collaboration Oriented Architecture (COA) paper, COA Framework paper, and other cornerstone security research, culminating in 2011 with their publication of the Identity, Entitlement & Access Management Commandments.

Moats and Castles
Traditional perimeter security has developed around an ancient concept, seeing the organization as a castle, and surrounding it with a moat. Routers, Firewalls, and intrusion detection systems are analogs for tunnels, walls, lights, doors, and surveillance towers. In plain terms, Barracuda Networks defines a Network Perimeter as, “the secured boundary between the private and locally managed side of a network, often a company’s intranet, and the public facing side of a network, often the Internet.” For many organizations, this approach has changed little, while the technology landscape has completely evolved. 

There are many design limitations with the Moat and Castle approach that prevent it from keeping pace with modern infrastructure. The main problem is that in the best-case scenario, it works the way it was designed to work. For instance, the VPN firewall model starts with the assumption that you can create a secure perimeter and trust that internal activities are safe. But just like the story of the Trojan Horse, once a bad actor has gotten inside the castle, they are free to attack and plunder the Crown Jewels. 

Applications themselves can create an open door for attackers, and nearly “80% of apps contain at least one critical or high vulnerability.” A Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report from 2020 cited phishing and the use of stolen credentials as the most common threat actions leading to a breach, and the average cost of a breach rising to nearly $4,000,000. Citing a report from Google, PC Magazine showed phishing attacks have increased an astounding 350 percent during the Covid-19 quarantine. Once an attacker compromises a system inside your network, exclusive reliance on perimeter security has failed and your company assets are largely exposed. Worse still, perimeter security offers little protection against one of the largest and growing sources of security breaches, employees.

“With the rapid adoption of virtualization technologies and the move to BYOD (bring your own device) the attack surface has become extensive and the majority of solutions available to security professionals just does not address the breadth of ways into your environment. Security has to be a core design principal for access solutions, not something that’s added in after the fact.“ – Eddie Satterly, DataNexus Co-Founder and CEO.

In the old kingdom of moats and castles there was a clear distinction between corporate and personal. Corporate devices, corporate email, corporate data, corporate network. In the modern era the lines are continually blurred between personal and corporate devices, data, and networks. With the design principal of any app, to any device, in any location, there is no longer a traditional perimeter, which is why Cameyo is designed with a Zero Trust framework rather than a traditional perimeter-based security approach.

Trust No One
Traditional network security breaks networks into zones, with each zone granted a distinct level of trust. When it comes to modern cyber-attacks, this approach fails. To be clear, perimeter solutions still play a large part of the overall security equation, but there is no longer a trusted zone or “safe place” on the network. Adding more features like application awareness to firewall products adds complexity and cost and doesn’t fix the problem. Instead, it must be assumed that every part of your network is potentially hostile, and every access request should be treated as if it occurred directly on the public internet.

Due to the continuous stream of technology innovations that by their nature invaded the perimeter, in 2009 Forrester alum John Kindervag coined the concept of Zero Trust, asserting that trust is a vulnerability; security must be designed with the strategy, “Never trust, always verify.”

According to the O’Reilly online library, a zero trust network is built upon five fundamental assertions:

  • The network is always assumed to be hostile.
  • External and internal threats exist on the network at all times.
  • Network locality is not sufficient for deciding trust in a network.
  • Every device, user, and network flow is authenticated and authorized.
  • Policies must be dynamic and calculated from as many sources of data as possible.

Zero Trust with Unmanaged Devices
While Cameyo can certainly be used in a traditional security model, it is important to note that it is designed to be highly secure even with unmanaged devices in untrusted public networks. Any app, to any device, in any location, assumes the need for Zero Trust as a starting point.

“Resilience in the new ‘no perimeter’ enterprise topography still requires adherence to basic rules that serve to secure the Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability of diverse endpoints and data that is stored and processed within the enterprise and in the cloud. Necessity, as always, will drive the creation of new means to address the challenges faced by modern enterprises that function beyond the boundaries of the classic perimeter topography. Resilience requires adaptation to function and thrive when new variables are introduced into the environment. Enterprises that know where their security gaps exist and that deploy technologies that mitigate threats and vulnerabilities posed by new environmental variables position themselves as more resilient and adaptive than those enterprises that do not take such measures. Survival is adaptation. Adaptation is survival.” – Juan Reyes, AT&T Senior Security Consultant. 

With that in mind, let’s review four key security elements built into the Cameyo solution:

Cameyo NoVPN
The Cameyo solution effectively provides a secure digital workspace environment without the need for VPN.  Organizations have traditionally used VPN technology for decades to allow remote workers to connect to corporate resources that are located in the on-premises corporate data center.  However, VPN has become a legacy technology that is less than desirable and even opens your organization up to security risks.

There are many challenges and concerns to consider with traditional VPN connections.  VPNs do not scale very well across a large client base and performance can quickly become an issue with many users aggregated to a VPN concentrator.  There are also management challenges to overcome with VPN such as client VPN software that must be installed, provisioned, configured and managed throughout the lifecycle of the solution.   Aside from the management and performance challenges with VPN, there are security risks involved as well.

When remote clients are connected via a VPN tunnel, the remote client device essentially becomes part of the corporate network, much the same way as if you simply plugged a network cable into a network switch in the corporate office.  With this behavior as part of VPN solutions, any unwanted or potentially malicious software loaded on the remote client is brought into the corporate network by way of the VPN connection.  This means there is the potential for extremely dangerous malicious code such as ransomware to have unfettered access to the corporate network by means of the VPN connection.

In addition to the risk of malicious software by way of VPN connectivity, VPN provides the possibility for easy data exfiltration from the corporate network.  When a remote user is connected via VPN, data can easily be copied from corporate network resources to the remote end user client or even a personal cloud environment.

With Cameyo’s NoVPN functionality there is no requirement for VPN connectivity for remote workers to access business-critical applications.  This provides many benefits, including: 

  • The client stays outside the corporate network with no direct connection
  • Connectivity to applications is made possible through a secure browser connection
  • SSL encryption protects communication between client and application
  • There are very simple requirements including a browser, and HTTPS egress traffic only
  • Unlike VPN, there is no end user client software that is required besides a browser 

Port Shield
During the initial surge in remote work, some cyber-security firms were tracking an astonishing 127% increase per day in publicly exposed RDPs, the protocol most used for virtual desktops. 

  • RDP port 3389 – Used for administrative tasks and installing applications on the Cameyo server
  • HTTPS 443 (configurable) – Used for end-user connectivity to published applications

Cameyo Port Shield provides additional security by automatically closing external access to the specified ports unless needed.  “When an end user or administrator connects to the Cameyo portal and is authenticated, Port Shield dynamically orchestrates firewall rules on the Cameyo server to allow the specific IP address for an end user or administrator who has been granted access. Once the end user or administrator logs out, the firewall exception, even for the once authenticated session IP, is removed.”

With this approach, no ports stay open for any period of time. This results in a solution that, by default, is hardened from brute force attacks or zero-day vulnerabilities that an attacker may attempt to capitalize on with systems that are exposed to the outside world using a persistent open port or range of ports.

Layered Revert
For organizations who have supported Terminal Servers and the newer Remote Desktop Services servers, the server essentially becomes a “glorified workstation” for your end users who use it to login and launch applications.  With this approach IT must manage not only the applications, but also the user profile and session data, which can be problematic for IT support.  It can also introduce the possibility for security issues since the user profile data generally persists after logoff and can often be a hiding place for unwanted or outright malicious software.

To solve for this, Cameyo developed its Layered Revert technology. With Layered Revert, Cameyo employs a volatile layer on which users work that is not attached to any specific user profile.  Session data is redirected to on-premises or cloud storage through a patent-pending I/O virtualization technology.  While the volatile layer with other changes are discarded, application data does persist.  When a new session is started, an empty layer is provided for the user session to take place.

How the Layered Revert process works is very similar in concept to reverting a VM back to a particular snapshot point in time.  The changes that have happened since the snapshot was taken are discarded.  On the session’s end, the volatile layer employed by Cameyo is discarded while the important application data persists.  The entire workflow and underlying process is transparent to the end user working with published applications. 

Session Sync

Rounding out the Cameyo solution to provide a secure digital workspace to end users is a technology called Session Sync.  Cameyo’s Session Sync technology allows end users to have access to specific configuration settings and user files that will follow them between sessions.  Session Sync works in harmony with Layered Revert to ensure user data is persistent, while ensuring the session layer is pristine and secure upon each new connection.  With Cameyo’s Session Sync, user files and data are synced to Google Cloud Storage or Microsoft OneDrive.  This means that users are able to see and access data such as auto-saved files, stored data, and their settings.

Another great feature of Session Sync is that it provides the ability for organizations to turn off the downloading of files by end users.  This can protect against data exfiltration concerns for sensitive data as well as help to ensure regulatory compliance.

Conclusion

As your organization transitions to a more permanent remote work strategy or as you’re looking for a long-term digital workspace solution, make sure the solution you choose takes security seriously. As hackers increasingly target remote workers as an entry point into corporate networks, making sure security is built in at the foundation of your digital workspace is critical. Be wary of solutions that require multiple extra layers of “optional” third-party solutions for security, as each new layer adds complexity and can increase your attack surface. 

Cameyo was designed from day one with a Zero Trust security model at the foundation of the platform. With each layer of the platform, security has been given priority in the overall design and execution of the solution. With robust security features such as NoVPN, Port Shield, Layered Revert, and Session Sync, Cameyo helps ensure that your remote workers AND your corporate network & data are secure at all times. 

About Brad Rowland
Since beginning his career in the mid-90s managing a Citrix enterprise site with tens of thousands of users, Rowland has remained focused on desktop virtualization technologies. His experience stretches from managing the product lines at thin client vendor Wyse (Dell), to running global product and marketing at cloud application delivery specialist AppStream (Symantec), to serving as the chief marketing officer at FSLogix, acquired by Microsoft in late 2018 to play a strategic role in the launch of Windows Virtual Desktop. He currently leads Emergent Campus, an innovation catalyst and economic development project in rural Colorado. In July of 2020, Brad joined the advisory board for Cameyo, a Virtual Application Delivery solution in the Digital Workspace market.

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Local Entrepreneur Expands “Backoffice as a Service” to Fuel Fremont County Business Growth and Strengthen Communities

Through her leadership role at Second-61, Amber and her team provide back office services including bookkeeping, tax preparation, payroll, and consulting, to over 35 local businesses, including construction companies, restaurants, e-commerce, merchandisers, franchises, services, vendors, manufacturing, churches, ministries, government, non-profits, real estate, and many others. Amber recently relocated her team to Emergent Campus, at the Historic Florence High School. To learn more, visit https://www.second-61.com/ and click “Get in Touch.”

For someone who loved oil painting and horticulture, Amber Conover never thought she’d be spending the last 24 years immersed in bookkeeping. Amber spent her teenage years in college studying horticulture and painting whenever possible. She enjoyed working hard and was a successful greenhouse manager. “Every time I had a job, I was offered a management position and the opportunity to take over the business. At the time I didn’t realize it was my aptitude for business principles, not just because I was a hard worker,” said Amber. “Although working hard never hurts.”  

After moving from Colorado’s front range to Fremont County, she quickly realized she would have greater opportunities by owning her own business, instead of working for someone else.  Amber then started a trim carpentry business for residential homes.  She really enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the work, but when the economy slowed down and she was offered a job at a tax and accounting office, she took it.  “There wasn’t much new construction going on and I was ready to start a family. Because of my history with bookkeeping and businesses management, it seemed like a good fit. Besides, being pregnant on a ladder with my nail gun in hand didn’t paint the best safety picture,” Amber quipped.

Amber continued to work at the accounting office for 15 years where she assisted with tax prep, bookkeeping, payroll, and audits for individuals, non-profit and for-profit businesses, as she continued running her own businesses.  

Being a business owner and working with other business owners, she encountered some of the primary areas where a business would struggle to stay afloat and keep their doors open. “Whether the economy is at a high or a low, one of the biggest challenges, is to understand where your cash flow is. You need to be able to project and budget a worst-case scenario, expected scenario, best case scenario, and be able to sleep at the end of the day. Having the upfront investment funds is key, but then you have to manage it well and determine where your profit leaks are, minimize those, and at the same time capitalize on your greatest profit margins.”  She believes that far too many business owners are just trying to keep their bills paid and hope they keep making sales and periodically check to see if there is still money in the bank account. This can make it very difficult to make key decisions when necessary for the health and prosperity of their business.

Some business owners opt to do their own bookkeeping but to the expense of their personal time as well as possible expense due to their lack of knowledge in accounting. Some might decide to hire someone in house to handle bookkeeping, but this can also create additional overhead costs, due to the additional employee salary, therefore making it cost prohibitive. Amber believes that outsourcing bookkeeping and back office services can be a very viable solution that makes sense for small business owners and free them up to do what they do best.  

When Amber became a tenant at FEDC TechSTART, she found herself working with a diverse group of entrepreneurs who were collaborative, and had a clear and strategic focus on revitalizing the local economy. She explains, “I had felt for far too long, we were becoming more globally minded economically and needed to bring it back to the heart and breath of the community, localizing it as much as possible and rebuilding our personal connections with one another.” She started working with Chris Koehn, founder of Second-61, who was also a tenant at TechSTART. The work she was doing for local businesses and non-profits paralleled the purpose of Second-61 and the ‘Rural Reboot’ project.  Amber responds, “My biggest desire as a bookkeeper is to see a business be successful, because when they are successful, we are all successful. The people they employ are my neighbors, they have families, and those jobs are important. We want to build up, train up, and equip our local business owners, which will make our community stronger, add value back in, and give people hope.”  

The recent challenge of COVID-19 has left scars on many in rural communities. There has been a tremendous shift in the economy, the lasting impact of which is undetermined and far reaching. While globalization and urbanization have driven the world’s economy for the last four decades, COVID-19 will quickly reverse that trend as people move to remote working and lesser populated areas. Some may think a world that is less global and urban will isolate people and create instabilities.  However, Amber believes that the opposite is true. This difficult challenge, which has created contractions in the urban market has offered a great opportunity to the rural market. She explains, “In the rural market, we still know who our neighbors are. Our kids play together, we see each other at the grocery store, we shop from each other’s stores and use each other’s services. We aren’t living on isolated islands; we are interconnected and that is the greatest advantage that we have.” It is Amber’s desire to see a community that is vested in each other and can continue doing the things they do best, which is serving one another at a fraction of the cost of the urban market. Instead of competing with a high cost of living, inflated overhead and operational expenses, the rural market and small business owner has the upper advantage. With greater flexibility and tenacity they are ready for the work at hand.  

Amber Conover recently moved her office to Emergent Campus at the Historic Florence High School with the rest of the Second-61 team. They have hired new employees and are growing.  She is excited to continue serving the local businesses and non-profits of Fremont County with bookkeeping and back office support. She is invested in the vision of revitalizing our rural economies and serving the needs that have risen from the evolving gaps from the instabilities of the urban market, globalization, and outsourcing overseas. Amber adds, “I would challenge all of us to step up to the plate and reclaim what has been lost along the way as we serve one another, and do it well.”

Florence’s Emergent Campus becomes a hub for business opportunities (Canon City Daily Record)
Member of President Trump’s cabinet visits Florence’s Emergent Campus (Canon City Daily Record)
We Need To Strengthen Rural America If We Want To Unify Our Country (Forbes)

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A Year of New Beginnings

By Brad Rowland

 

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” – T.S. Eliot

 

In August of 2019, we launched the next evolution of FEDC TechSTART, called Emergent Campus. Located in the historic Florence High School building, just blocks from downtown Florence, Emergent was literally 10 times the space of the 8,000 square foot TechSTART community that took over 3 years to build in Canon City. To support such a big project, we brought on a small launch team to help Emergent get up, running, and self-sustaining.

 

Cassie Miles joined our team to serve as the dedicated Project Support Specialist for Emergent Campus. She oversaw elements of project management, coordinated team meetings, recruited candidates for Second-61 and assisted me in my new role as Emergent Campus’ general manager. During her tenure she created avenues for our success, working through the details of property management, marketing, and client/partnership relations that she executed with the utmost attention. In between meetings with entrepreneurs, state and local leaders, and the rural Colorado VC community, we both plunged quite a few toilets and learned to do the maintenance on a massive, 100 year-old set of buildings. 

 

Over the last year Emergent Campus persevered through it’s second pandemic (the first in 1920) and has continued to grow through these turbid times. As of September, 2020, we have 13 separate businesses operating on campus, and over 10 independent consultants and co-working members. Second-61 has moved into their new enterprise service desk space and we are running a remote office pilot program for an industry leading cloud software company. We even got a great article in Forbes, We Need To Strengthen Rural America If We Want To Unify Our Country. The launch phase would have been a challenge under any circumstances, but I’m super proud of the team for pulling this off during Covid. Your resourcefulness and innovation was matched only by your perseverance and passion. Thanks for not giving up when it felt like the wheels might fall off, and thanks for remembering why we started this project. I know you’ve seen firsthand the positive impact on the students, small businesses, and new entrepreneurial ventures.

 

Now that our initial ramp up period is complete, the launch team is going back to their “day jobs”, all of which are officed at Emergent Campus Florence or TechSTART Canon City. I’m working in an office at Emergent Campus, Florence, advising several tech companies and growing my consulting practice. Side note, I continue to plunge toilets. Cassie is transitioning to a new role with Visionary Broadband, sister company to Mammoth Networks, where she will continue to sharpen her business acumen. The leadership and community team would like to extend our profound gratitude as Cassie has been an integral part of championing our vision, and assisting in economic development efforts and talent recruitment from Emergent Campus. The position we created for her was not the position we originally imagined or the one she ultimately filled. We have been honored to be a part of her professional journey and look forward to future collaboration with her. She is truly gifted, humble and possesses everything we consider to be excellent. Thank you, Cassie, and best wishes in your new chapter!

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Colorado Lawmakers Prioritize Rural Economic Development Grant Program

As more and more companies look to America’s heartland to offset the exuberant operating cost of doing business in major cities, states around the country are exploring ways to incentivize job creation and economic growth in rural communities. With the lure of empowering small business owners and attracting new industries, the idea resonated with Colorado state lawmakers Representative Bri Buentello and Senator Kerry Donovan, who both represent rural areas of the Centennial State.

Together, with the support of more than three dozen cosponsors, the duo recently passed Senate Bill 20-002, a bipartisan measure that established the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) grant program within the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. Once functional, the new program will provide funding for projects that create economic opportunity, diversity and resiliency in the economies of rural communities across Colorado.

“Although the budget is tight, this bipartisan bill has always been a priority for rural legislators,” said Representative Buentello. “Economies in our rural communities are at the heart of our entire state, and especially now, we must ensure they have every tool necessary to grow, and that is why when we returned to the State Capitol I put it at the top of my priority list.”

As the governing agency of the program, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs has been tasked with promulgating policies and procedures to execute the program on or before September 1, 2020. Additionally, the department must establish criteria such as job creation goals and construction completion milestones to determine eligibility.

While numerous entities will be eligible to participate including: local governments, housing authorities, nonprofit economic development organizations, and others – the legislation gives priority to grant applications that attract capital investments and encourage community collaboration. Furthermore, the bill aims to provide financial resources to Colorado’s “beginning farmers” which is defined as, “a farmer, rancher or operator of nonindustrial private forestland who is in the first ten years of operation or a person intending or aspiring to begin such an operation.”

Through efforts like this and others that incentivize economic growth and drive investments in – homegrown talent, workforce development, mentorship programs and startup incubation – rural communities across Colorado will be in a much better position to attract new and better paying jobs, and compete in today’s economy.

“Now, the bill is on its way to the governor, and it is the start of something that we can build on in years to come,” added Representative Buentello.

The legislation goes into effect ninety-days after final adjournment of the Colorado General Assembly and will be administered by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs in partnership with the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

 


 

Bio

Kevin Mahmalji is the founder and principal of Two Rivers Consulting based in Florence, Colorado. With more than 10 years of experience in public policy advocacy, strategic communications, and nonprofit management, Kevin offers a wide range of professional services including public relations, government affairs, fundraising, community engagement, and more.

Before founding Two Rivers Consulting, Kevin worked as a political operative for numerous statewide campaigns in Texas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia, and Colorado. These efforts included a presidential, senatorial, gubernatorial and municipal campaign, as well as issue advocacy. Kevin’s background in electoral politics demonstrates his proven ability to work under extreme pressure, meet critical deadlines, cultivate support from diverse stakeholders, and build diverse coalitions.

In his free time, Kevin likes to give back to his community through volunteerism. He’s currently President-elect of Florence Rotary Club, Vice President of the John C. Fremont Library District Board of Trustees, Board Member of Action 22, and an active member of the Florence Chamber of Commerce. Most recently, Kevin was invited to join the Steering Committee for Colorado’s Rural Philanthropy Days where he serves as the Co-chair of the Marketing Committee. He is frequently seen at or around his co-working office at Emergent Campus in historic Florence, Colorado.

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