West End, Colorado

Building Sustainability for Regional Entrepreneurial Support Systems

West End region of Colorado | Completed 2020

Project Details

The Challenge

Key Activities

Outcomes

The economy of the West End region of Colorado has historically relied on mining and the Tri-State Generation Plant, a power plant in Nucla, Colorado. Not only has coal mining drastically decreased over the years, but in 2019, the power plant announced a closure by 2020.

Responding to these economic shifts, the West End Economic Development Corporation (WEEDC) was formed in order to create a diverse and resilient local economy. WEEDC is a membership-based nonprofit providing on-the-ground business support for communities in the West End region. WEEDC currently operates a co-working space, two commercial kitchens, and a community grain mill, all of which were implemented through a public-private partnership in an effort to support economic diversification.

However, WEEDC was uncertain of the operation’s future success due to the time limit and uncertainty of existing and potential grants. In need of a plan that guaranteed operational success for WEEDC, the organization hired Community Builders to facilitate conversations about the market potential of WEEDC, as well as create a sustainability plan that provided optimal revenue for the organization. 

As of early 2020, 76% of WEEDC’s internal operations are paid for by an Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant that will end in 2021. Working with WEEDC, the Telluride Foundation, and Development Research Partners, Community Builders sought to address long-term sustainability for WEEDC after the EDA grant ended. Through workshops that included regional partners, civic leaders, and board members, we facilitated an exchange of suitability ideas that included internal program restructuring, innovative regional approaches, and potential for community support. The goal of these ideas was to reach operational sustainability within one-to-three years, and an organizational expansion within three-to-six years.

We went on to develop financial pro formas, evaluating WEEDC’s internal cost and projected revenue streams. Based on workshops and extended conversations with WEEDC, we financially analyzed new revenue generating concepts for WEEDC’s memberships, co-working, commercial kitchens, and community grain mill operations, attempting to provide the largest revenue source while balancing the missiondriven organization. What resulted was the Advance West End (AWE) Sustainability Plan.

Through the AWE Sustainability Plan, Community Builders proposed rethinking the structuring of existing programs. This included slight rental increases below market value to provide easy access for entrepreneurs, pop-up shop potential, additional rental options operations, long-term tenant discount for continued revenue streams, and interior reconfiguration to optimize spaces.

Through this analysis, we were able to increase WEEDC’s revenue by over $60,000 annually. Additionally, we provided new revenue concepts that were outside the uncertainty of grants and which encouraged community development within the West End.