In 2018, DCI was awarded a USDA Rural Business Development Grant focused on Digital Marketing and Planning for Creative Entrepreneurs. Our project focused on providing digital marketing technical assistance to creative entrepreneurs throughout rural Colorado communities with two phases, the first working on regional coordination to establish action plans for cohesive efforts and the second working with specific entrepreneurs in need of digital marketing support.
Phase I: Planning for Regional Attraction
To identify our grant recipients, DCI member communities submitted letters of interest to be included in our grant. DCI decided to focus on three rural regions, the San Luis Valley, Southeast Colorado, and the Western Slope, with partners in Gunnison, Eads, Limon, Center, Saguache, and Paonia. To determine digital presence and marketing needs for each community DCI completed surveys, planning meetings, and held a stakeholder meeting in each community in fall of 2018.
With a deeper understanding of each community’s unique attributes and individual needs shared through meetings with community members, business owners, and entrepreneurs, DCI is excited to share our findings and some suggested the actions for each community through our partnership. While we are still in the process of sharing action plans with communities, we wanted to share a short introduction for you to meet our recipients:
Eads: Eads highlights the recreational assets centrally located near several reservoirs and the Eastern plains, making it a great destination for water birding, and hiking enthusiasts.
Center: Center is near the Great Sand Dunes, the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge, and the recently reworked mountain biking and hiking trail system at the Penitente Canyon Special Recreation Area.
Gunnison: Gunnison celebrates its Western roots with the annual Cattlemen’s Days Rodeo. This event brings the community together and has shaped Gunnison’s heritage for over 100 years.
Limon: Known as the “Hub City”, Limon also boasts a trail system in the wetlands for biking and hiking, local history museums, and community spaces for gathering and entertainment.
Paonia: Paonia has carved out an identity for itself through the combination of agriculture and arts. It is also home to a Certified Creative District and is a part of the North Fork Valley Creative Coalition.
Saguache: Rich in local history, Saguache is home to three hotels, two historical museums, and two theaters. Popular ski areas and the Great Sand Dunes are also nearby Saguache.
Each of these towns is supported by community leader, stakeholders, and entrepreneurs who want to see it continue to grow and develop. As we move forward, we hope to highlight the ways that these communities move forward with recommendations to increase the impacts of digital marketing.
Phase II: Digital Marketing for Creative Entrepreneurs
The second phase of our grant allows us to do just that by partnering with these community stakeholders. DCI will select a handful of businesses to develop an individualized strategic digital marketing plan. We are in the process of selecting our partner businesses right now, based on criteria such as potential job creation, ability to attract local or tourist traffic, current and potential impact on the town, and other considerations.
We are so excited to continue with Phase II of our grant and to work one-on-one with creative local entrepreneurs. Stay tuned for our business selection as we continue moving forward with this project.