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.