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Entrepreneurship conference coming to Pagosa Springs

The Town of Pagosa Springs could see as many as 500 prospective small-business owners and entrepreneurs visiting the area, hosting the fourth annual Colorado Entrepreneurship MarketPlace conference next fall.

According to Steve Vassallo, executive director of the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation, the Colorado Rural Development Council (CRDC) selected Pagosa Springs for the conference due to the overwhelming support for bringing the event to the area exhibited by local business owners, entrepreneurs and other residents.

Vassallo said the response was so overwhelming that the CRDC told him, “They’re not going to do what they’ve done in past years and make a visit to the finalists. The response from here was so great that they just went ahead and selected us.”

Indeed, in the award letter sent to the CDC, the CRDC said, “Your proposal provided more collaboration between different entities within your area of the state than other proposals offered, as well as a strong commitment to the event.”

Previous communities to host the conference were La Junta, Grand Junction and Limon.

In mid-November, The SUN reported that letters of support were being solicited by the CDC to try and secure the conference for 2011.

“I give all the credit in the world to our community grant writer,” Vassallo said. Mary Tighe was the one who went out and got those 91 letters. If it wasn’t for her, we might still be sweating out the Colorado Rural Development Council’s decision until sometime in January.”

Although an exact date has not been determined for the event (as of press time), the conference will be held sometime between late-September and mid-October. The one-day long conference will include workshops and other presentations geared to prospective entrepreneurs interested in starting a new business.

While the obvious benefit of the conference will be realized by local hotels, restaurants and retail stores, Vassallo says that, “Another benefit is that we will be promoting Pagosa Springs throughout the next year in conjunction with the CRDC.”

In fact, the CRDC website states that, “The Colorado Entrepreneurship MarketPlace provides increased visibility and exposure to the hosting community, the MarketPlace venue, local entrepreneurs, economic development groups and attendees.”

The site adds that, “The hosting community/venue will be posted on the Colorado Rural Development Website, with a link to the community’s governmental offices, economic development office, and/or local Chamber of Commerce. Publicizing the MarketPlace begins immediately and continues throughout the year. Acceptable logos and links will be included in all mailings and electronic communications.”

Vassallo added that, “Hopefully, some of the entrepreneurs will stay here, see how beautiful it is and how vital our community is and decide that this is where they want to start their business.”

With recent emphasis on small business development in the state, the CRDC hopes that entrepreneurs will benefit enough from the conference to help kick start the state’s economy. One thing is clear, however: Pagosa Springs businesses will benefit when around 500 state entrepreneurs descend on the town next fall.

For more information about the conference, visit the CRDC’s website at www.ruralcolorado.org/2011-marketplace, or call the Pagosa Springs CDC at 731-1443.

jim@pagosasun.com