FORT COLLINS – The city of Fort Collins isn’t including funding for the Larimer Small Business Development Center in next year’s proposed budget, spurring the business development center to call on its supporters to appeal to the city for funding.
The business development center, located at the tech incubator Rocky Mountain Innosphere, told its supporters in an email Thursday that the “city of Fort Collins has removed consideration of funding the SBDC from its initial 2015/2016 budget.”
“There’s a strong opportunity to get it back in the budget if we all unite and act fast!” reads the email.
Josh Birks, the city’s Economic Health director, confirmed that the city had not included funding for the center in its recommended budget, but pointed out that the city has not consistently funded the center over the years.
“The call for action you’re seeing from (O’Connell) is just simply to tryto rally the troops to indicate to City Council that this is something that’s important,” he said.
“This was a request for new funding,” he added. “That request hasn’t been included in the recommended budget.”
The business development received a $17,500 competitive grant from the city this year, but neither Birks nor business development center Director Mike O’Connell could recall a time when the city had funded the center besides the grant.
O’Connell said the grant money is used to pay consultants that the center pairs with business owners. It also receives $65,000 annually from Front Range Community College as part of the institution’s business outreach program.
Funding from the community college represents a “significant” portion of the business development center’s budget, though O’Connell declined to state the annual amount of the center’s total budget. The center also receives an additional $65,000 in annual funding from the Small Business Administration.
“Supporting small business is important,” he said. “It’s the fabric of the community.”
The business development center offers free consulting services for businesses and startups. It has helped start 226 businesses, created 930 jobs and retained 421 employees in the past 10 years, according to its website. The center also has helped businesses in the region recover from flooding last September.
Fort Collins residents have a chance to weigh in on the budget at hearings Sept. 23 and Oct. 7. City Council is expected to give final approval to the budget Nov. 18.