Grants, rebates and a ‘street-level M.B.A.’

Darren Hollingsworth, the City of Englewood’s economic-development manager, says his job is to bring jobs to the city. He spoke Sept. 12 to a group of business leaders. Photo by Peter Jones


Englewood incentivizes its base of smaller businesses


Many small businesses fail to take full advantage of the benefits of doing business in a given city. Take Englewood, for example.

“My job is jobs,” said Darren Hollingsworth, the city’s economic-development manager. “My job is to support jobs in the city of Englewood.”

To help facilitate that mission, the City Council last year approved substantial changes to Englewood’s city-sponsored economic-development efforts. To help get the word out, Hollingsworth spoke last week to the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce.

A still-underutilized grants program, for one, is targeted at businesses during two key phases of their development. Start-ups in operation for less than two years may be eligible for $2,500 that may be spent on virtually any early expense that a small business might incur.

“It’s not a free grant,” Hollingsworth clarified. “It’s a grant to support the creation of jobs. … It’s to invest in growth in the community and raise the tide.”

Two years later, the business may also qualify for an acceleration grant of up to $5,000 to help take the operation to its next level.

“One example,” Hollingsworth said, “someone wanted to add pizza to their restaurant and wanted to have a couple of new employees added with the delivery of this new service, and that new pizza oven would require some improvements to the building.”

If training is what is needed, grants of about $50 to $500 are available to small businesses.

Englewood also partners with the U.S. Small Business Administration on an Emerging Leaders educational program.

“Basically, it’s a street-level M.B.A.,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s an intensive multi-week session that allows a business owner to take a very deep dive.”

Many businesses in Englewood may not even know that the Colorado Small Business Development Center has an office in the Englewood Civic Center, where local business owners can attend workshops and receive free and confidential one-on-one consulting.

Marcia McGilley, SBDC’s executive director, said consultants help entrepreneurs take a little bit of time to think about their businesses in a new way.

“It’s an hour session, and we ask you the questions,” she said. “What’s keeping you up at night? One of my favorite questions on there is, what clients do you need to fire?”

In addition to grants, tax credits may also be at the ready, especially since the entire city of Englewood now sits in an enterprise zone that qualifies resident businesses for credits in a number of categories, from job creation to employee healthcare benefits.

“They can be very substantial. If a solopreneur starts up and creates one job within the city, that’s an $1,100 tax credit,” Hollingsworth said.

Another incentive program rebates taxes and permit fees up to $20,000 when businesses retain as few as five employees.

Randy Penn, executive director of the Englewood Chamber and a former city mayor, said these sorts of proactive approaches to business retention recently kept Colorado Neurological Institute in the city.

“They were ready to move out of the city. We sat them down … and gave them a lot of options and they stayed in Englewood,” Penn said.

Brad Nixon, owner of the city’s Nixon’s Coffee and Share Good Foods, noted that many businesses in Englewood have little idea of the city programs available to them.

“The success of our business in town has largely been by virtue of the fact that we’ve chosen to be involved, to get involved at all sorts of different levels,” he said.

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