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Glenwood region nation’s entrepreneurial hot spot in 1990s

Move over, Las Vegas.When it came to taking a chance on a new business, the Glenwood Springs area was No. 1 during the last decade.An economic region centered in Glenwood Springs ranks No. 1 nationally for entrepreneurship during the 1990s, according to a new study. It edged out Las Vegas to win the honor. Four Utah regions made the top 10 (see rankings).The Glenwood Springs region topped nearly 400 small, medium and large markets in a study the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Edward Lowe Foundation released Tuesday.The Glenwood area also ranked 18th nationally in a related measure of most innovative/entrepreneurial regions, which combines looks at entrepreneurial and innovative activity. Fort Collins topped that list (see rankings).”If we look strictly at the entrepreneurial piece, Glenwood Springs is on top of the world,” said Pam Gibson, president of the Magellan Center think tank in Longmont, where the study results were announced Tuesday. “The real strength is in the combination of the two.”Gibson said Colorado did well in general in the study. One goal is to help connect entrepreneurial regions with those showing high levels of innovation, to further boost local economies, particularly after the state’s recent economic slowdown, she said.The Glenwood region’s top entrepreneurial ranking was based on a combination of three factors:– average annual new firm births from 1990-2001 – the Glenwood area ranked first, at just over nine new firms per 1,000 labor force.– annual change in new firms from 1990-2001 – the Glenwood area ranked 13th, at a 3.7 percent average increase. It was second among small regions.– percent of firms growing rapidly from 1991-96 – the Glenwood area ranked 13th, at 6.4 percent. It was second among small regions.The innovation rankings were based on number of patents issued, total research and development expenditures, and technology orientation.Much of the study was based on U.S. Census information. Gibson was unsure Tuesday just how large the Glenwood region was considered to be for the sake of the study, and others involved with the project could not be reached for comment. But Marianne Virgili, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, said the top ranking is an honor for the town.”I think it says a lot for Glenwood Springs, for the chamber of commerce obviously, but also for the city of Glenwood Springs for welcoming new business.”She noted that the city has worked on tax rebates for business expansion, both for new and existing businesses. Also, in more recent years the study didn’t cover, the city has offered broadband service as an incentive to businesses relying on high-speed Internet service.Virgili noted that the Small Business Development Center, based at Colorado Mountain College, also has partnered with the chamber for the last 20 years or so to help educate start-up businesses.”When somebody goes into business in Glenwood Springs they can learn how to formulate a business plan and they get some help in that regard,” she said.Virgili said she believes the study results also reflect a desire by people to live and work in an authentic town, with amenities and a healthy lifestyle.”With the advent of the electronic age where people can live where they want and do business all over the globe, I think Glenwood really shines,” Virgili said.Joe Livingston, who served as the longtime local SBDC director before retiring a year ago, said that depending on the size of the Glenwood region the study considered, it may reflect economic growth that took place across Garfield County and beyond during the 1990s.”It makes sense that the area would rank up pretty high,” he said. “We have seen a very large rate of growth and we’re coming from not a very large business base. … There was a lot of opening, with the increase in population, for growth in the business sector.”It kind of matches what we know in the area and the growth that we’ve undergone, and from what I can see it doesn’t seem to be slowing down a whole lot.”He cited rapid business expansion in places such as the mid-Roaring Fork Valley, New Castle and Rifle as signs of the continuing boom.The study cited new technology as one factor behind high-performing entrepreneurial regions, and Livingston said companies such as Sopris Surfers and Blizzard Internet Marketing are examples of that locally.The study said the most entrepreneurial regions also had the highest proportion of population with a college degree (19.5 percent).Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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