Four San Luis Valley communities selected for 2021 Colorado Challenge Accelerator Program 

DENVER — Downtown Colorado Inc. selected four San Luis Valley communities to participate in the 2021 Colorado Challenge Accelerator Program as well as the IN THE GAME: Small Town Challenge Studios April 27-30.  

In 2021, DCI will work with Antonito, Center, La Jara, and San Luis for a full year, with intensive team building and planning during DCI’s IN THE GAME: Small Town Challenge, spanning the month of April, virtually on DCI’s zoom. Communities are also eligible for ongoing support to build and maintain momentum around implementing solutions to affect their challenge. 

The purpose of this 2021 SLV Challenge initiative is to inspire the people of the San Luis Valley to reclaim and restore beloved community places in their region through community connectivity, a cohesive vision, and partnerships to ultimately leverage local and outside investment for local social entrepreneurship. 

“After years of planning and one crazy pandemic, the SLV is ready to get it done. The Colorado Challenge Program was created as a dynamic approach capable of adapting to specific community needs. The pandemic has showcased how this program, when paired with amazing community partners, is able to address unexpected challenges. The 2021 SLV Challenge Communities have already demonstrated innovation and we are excited to expand the work surrounding placemaking and community engagement,” said Katherine Correll, DCI Executive Director.  

Since 2017, each year DCI selects a cohort of communities to participate in a five-phase accelerator focused on turning challenges to opportunities. DCI partners with the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs Program Economic Development class. The program includes participating in IN THE GAME: Small Town Challenge Studio Workshops where DCI invites peer communities, consultants, and state and federal resources to create an action plan to move from idea to implementation.  

“We are proud to partner with this program to give our students a dynamic, hands-on economic development experience that also helps Colorado local governments find solutions,” said Randy Harrison, CU Denver Senior Fellow-Director of the Certified Public Manager Program. “These Student Project Coordinators are thrilled to use the skills they are learning to help a Colorado community and to network with so many professionals from Colorado state and consulting agencies.” 

The 2021 Colorado Challenge cohort will also work on a placemaking and activation event to be unveiled in June 2021. The 2021 Challenge Communities have each received a $20,000 grant from Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) to support creation of a placemaking installation for each community. This group of dynamic, small, and rural San Luis Valley communities is ready to engage through place as the SLV dives into implementing the future.  

“It’s exciting to see this investment in San Luis Valley and CHFA is proud to support this effort,” said communities.” Jeff Owsley, CHFA’s south central Colorado community relationship manager . “Not only will the selected communities and the students they’ll be working with benefit from this program, but the entire region will be strengthened as a result.”   

DCI’s 2021 IN THE GAME: Small Town Challenge San Luis Valley Edition will be virtual and deliver four days of immersive and upbeat workshops for two hours each morning to dive into a topic and turn challenges into opportunities for our small rural towns.   

Knowledge Marketplace 

Participants will hear from Colorado community leaders, leading Downtown experts, and local practitioners on strategies for building local ecosystems, encouraging local investors, supporting your small businesses, and telling your story.  

Since its creation in 2017, the Colorado Challenge Accelerator Program has worked with 30 Colorado communities to consider solutions for challenges including housing, historic building rehabilitation, business attraction, seasonal economies, and more. 

Upon conclusion, Challenge Studio Communities will receive a written report with action steps for overcoming their challenge and accessing resources. DCI and CU Denver School of Public Affairs will plan to hold educational events in the Challenge Studio Communities to showcase the process for problem-solving and implementing action plans in the community.