Sanchez takes Estes Park economic-development post

ESTES PARK and FORT COLLINS — Jana Sanchez was named program manager of the Estes Park Economic Development Corp.’s business accelerator program.

She said by phone last week that the FoCo group will largely close except for an annual pitch competition. Her Estes Park duties began Sept. 13, where she’ll be onsite three days a week and remote from Fort Collins for the rest.

Sanchez had been running Fort Collins nonprofit LaunchNo.CO to “help companies form, grow and stay in Colorado” as she said at a BizWest Innovation Roundtable in August.

The EDC’s BASE program — for Business Accelerator Services of Estes — will run 25 to 30 enterprises a year, including those now in the valley or ones that want to move there, through a six-month program of “education, mentorship and strategic planning.”

The current cohort is three-fourths full and “looking to get to 25” for an early October start. Application is via the Estes Park EDC website, with a deadline of Oct. 1. There are several hundred area businesses that could benefit, Sanchez said.

BASE is free to users, funded by a $500,000 federal grant, and Sanchez has a three-year deal to run it, she said. By the end of the term “we hope to have a program people would pay for or a sponsor,” she said. A renewed grant is also possible.

She said a local business push picked up steam after the 2013 floods “cut Estes Park off from the world for months.” The wildfires followed, along with infrastructure damage and Internet service issues. Then  COVID limited how many people could come to the national park.

It’s “part of creating a self-sustaining economy,” she said. “Tourism is the primary driver here and will continue to be, but it can’t be the only one.”

E-commerce is a clear focus, including “people who want to live here and create SaaS companies,” she said. The valley also needs a patent and trademark attorney, Sanchez said.

Sanchez has written for senior executives, worked with nonprofits and Fortune 500 firms and teaches at the University of Colorado Boulder. She has a master’s degree in organizational management and corporate culture.

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