The Colorado Springs Small Business Development Center is facing a crisis — it could lose a third of its funding if the City Council accepts the recommendation of the Lodging and Automobile Rentals Tax.
The organization, which provides assistance and support to local small businesses, received $55,000 a year from the taxes, starting during Mayor Steve Bach’s tenure. Before that, the group received the money from the general fund.
But now, there’s the potential that the nonprofit could receive no funding at all from the city, and for executive director Aikta Marcoulier, that’s a big problem.
“When you’re operating with a $200,000 budget, it’s a big deal,” she said. “I was just so surprised that we received no funding at all and that there’s a proposal to fund another economic development group, but not us.”
The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance has a proposal to receive $35,000 from LART funds and another $35,000 from the Mayor’s fund. City Council will consider the ordinance on Tuesday, Sept. 8, at the same time they debate the LART recommendations.
For the SBDC, the decision is vital.
“We absolutely aid in the tourism effort,” Marcoulier said. “If it weren’t for us, for our help with disaster grants (during the Waldo Canyon fire and the subsequent floods), there wouldn’t even be places for tourism to go. We helped keep business doors open in Manitou and Old Colorado City.”
The SBDC has a proven record of success, she said. The group provided help with $9.3 million in capital formation, increased sales of its clients by $5 million and aided with new contracts for $969,838 last year.
They created 418 new jobs and retailed 702, serving industries as diverse as agriculture to education and health care. They had 96 new business starts for veterans and 31 other business startups.They aided more than 2,000 clients in two years.
“If economic development is important to the city, I can’t believe they won’t fund us,” Marcoulier said. “We have a strong argument that what we do provides benefits to the city. While we also cover Teller and Park counties, most of what we do stays right here in Colorado Springs.”
City Council will discuss the LART committee’s recommendations Tuesday, Sept. 8 during their work session before the regular council session. At that meeting, they’ll forward recommendations to Mayor John Suthers, who will either approve or revise them. Those recommendations will be sent back to the LART committee one last time before Council makes them official.
“This is basically the last chance we have to make our case that this money is important to the city’s economy,” Marcoulier said. “We have a very strong case; and I’m hoping we get a chance to make it.”