The Business Incubator Center was just awarded an exciting new grant from the Economic Recovery Corps. This was an incredibly competitive process, and I am very excited to share that BIC was one of 65 initiatives awarded funding from the federal Economic Development Administration from the more than 500 that applied.
With the grant funding we will be launching AgriWest, a groundbreaking economic development initiative intended to support agricultural sustainability and food security systems in Western Colorado. AgriWest’s mission is to diversify the agricultural sector, creating employment opportunities and bolstering the local economy.
Agriculture has often been considered a recession-proof industry, but we know that the industry must be future-proofed to protect vital economic resources from threats from such things as water scarcity, more frequent and severe droughts, workforce and transportation concerns, and quickly evolving technologies. With 40 percent of the region’s economy relying on agriculture, we desire for AgriWest to emerge as a critical and positive tool for the future. By seamlessly connecting local farmers, ranchers & growers and shaping regional economic development strategies, the initiative not only preserves but fortifies the agricultural sector while honoring our region’s heritage in this space.
AgriWest will require vision, collaboration, and hard work. Our goal with this effort is to bring together the various stakeholders in the local agricultural economic sector to first, identify current concerns or forecasted problems detrimental to the long-term success of the industry, and second, find and enact solutions to those problems before they become impediments or threats to Western Colorado’s production agriculture ecosystem.
I couldn’t imagine anyone more qualified to help us bring our individual voices together in the agriculture industry than our AgriWest fellow, Janie VanWinkle.
I am beyond thrilled to announce that Janie VanWinkle has been awarded the AgriWest Fellow by the Economic Recovery Corps. If you know Janie, you know she is a trusted, rural voice in production agriculture and a local and national leader. She will be charged with developing partnerships, identifying funding sources, and promoting innovative solutions tailored to Western Colorado’s unique, agricultural, and regional needs. Her expertise will guide the implementation of sustainable practices, fostering collaborative economic opportunities across our region. She will be charged with facilitating partnerships among community-based organizations, ensuring the project benefits from expert insights, contributing significantly to long-term economic prosperity in Western Colorado.
Janie is the right voice for the work ahead and I couldn’t be more excited to receive the news of her fellowship award. She cares deeply about our region, production agriculture, food sustainability, caring for our valuable resources like our land and water and contributing to the economic resilience of our region for lasting impact.
Over the course of the 2.5-year (30 month) fellowship, Janie will provide technical assistance, planning, and capacity-building support to the initiative. She will also receive specialized training throughout the program and will participate in a cohort learning model designed to elevate the needs of our community, scale impact, and drive change. Our goal is to promote economic development solutions that help our community and region and can scale to be utilized on a national level.
Currently, Janie and I are at a national launch for the Economic Recovery Corps in Portland, Oregon connecting with the other 64 host communities and fellows from across the country. There is only one other Colorado awardee, based in Steamboat Springs and focused on helping northwest Colorado before and after the coal mines close. To learn more about the other communities and fellows participating in this exciting new program, please visit the Economic Development Recovery Corps website.
As the Economic Recovery Corps launches this inaugural effort, we couldn’t be more honored to be a part of it. And for any of you interested in joining our AgriWest Council, stay tuned. We’ll be providing a call for your involvement soon!
Dalida Sassoon Bollig
Business Incubator Center