Economic Restructuring: Business Attraction & Retention in Colorado

17 Nov

Did you miss the November Downtown Institute: Economic Restructuring? Downtown Institute featured speaker and guest blogger Hilarie Portell of Portell Works blogs about business attraction and retention strategies recently implemented in communities across Colorado.

Numerous communities were spotlighted for their creative approaches to business attraction and retention at the November 5 Downtown Institute in Monte Vista. In a difficult economy where nobody is taking risks, here are some ways you can use local resources and talent to “grow your own.” 

Business Attraction

Financial incentives

  • The City of Aurora East End Arts District offers financial incentives for specific types of businesses to locate in the district. The grants, which average about $50,000, must be used for “bricks and mortar” projects and matched by the business. Source of the grants is Community Development Block Grant funds.
  • Monte Vista has an economic development assistance policy that offers loans and city support for new and expanding business.  Incentives may total up to $50,000. Small low interest loans are offered by a local bank as part of their Community Reinvestment Act obligation. City support may include waivers or reduction of various fees, as well as property tax rebates.
  • Many communities are exploring community-owned business models, and financing through Community Investment Institutions. Would your community leaders invest in a downtown incentive or business?

Multi-Tenant Non-profit Centers

  • The Denver Housing Authority has created a multi-tenant nonprofit center in their Benedict Park Place community. Nonprofit organizations can fill downtown space, provide needed community services, create foot traffic and generate revenue for property owners.

Business Retention


  • The City of Brighton offers small business assistance, job training, early childhood education and affordable healthcare services at the Brighton Learning and Resource Campus.
  • Local libraries can be an invaluable source of information and training for small business owners and entrepreneurs. The Town of Parker librarian is “embedded” with the downtown development group. She offers access to marketing databases, business research, and connections to business counselors and training. Involve your local librarian in your downtown effort.
  • Many communities are putting business resources on their websites. Castle Rock’s Economic Gardening program and Boulder’s Business Portal offer step-by-step instructions for new or expanding businesses, as well as research tools and training opportunities. 


  • Shop Local. The Town of Castle Rock’s “Rock Your Dollar” campaign generated $1.5 million in local spending in a two-month period. Shoppers earned cash cards for every $500 spent at local businesses ($50 card) or every $1,000 spent ($100 card). The Town provided $11,000 for the cash cards. 

Streamlining Processes

  • Castle Rock and Monte Vista have both streamlined approval processes for new development or businesses.  How many steps do business owners have to take to set up shop in your district? If you mapped it, could you work with those on the inside to streamline?

Hilarie Portell  is passionate about creating and revitalizing urban places. She has worked in public relations, marketing and management for a variety of complex projects for nearly 20 years and is founding principal of Portell Works.


One Response to “Economic Restructuring: Business Attraction & Retention in Colorado”

  1. Corey April 16, 2013 at 6:51 AM #

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