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Working Together – How Collaboration Builds Business

It doesn’t matter if you are a sports team, business owner, student, or employee. At some point you are going to need to work as part of a team. Several clichés come to mind, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, “There is no I in team”, or “we are only as strong as our weakest link”. There is always some truth in the clichés and they act as motivational phrases that can inspire greatness. The La Junta Lady Tigers wouldn’t have won the state championship in softball without teamwork and the Broncos would be at the bottom of the standings if they couldn’t work as a team. So how does this apply to economic development and the business world?

From the economic development standpoint, teamwork is essential, especially when we are working with limited resources. It takes collaboration amongst the city and county economic developers along with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the chambers of commerce to make sure that everyone is on the same page and that we are using the same messaging across each of these organizations. This happens almost everyday at the SCORE Center on OJC’s campus but it happens at a regional level as well. La Junta Economic Development, Otero County Economic Development, and the SBDC take part in monthly meetings that bring together the six counties of Southeastern Colorado (Baca, Bent, Crowley, Kiowa, Prowers, & Otero). This group is called Southeast Business Retention, Expansion, & Attraction or SEBREA for short. SEBREA brings together six economic developers, county commissioners and the presidents of the two local community colleges to discuss ways to improve economic development within the region and acts as the advisory council for the SBDC. SEBREA is currently going through a marketing exercise to help create messaging that is consistent across the region.

On the business side, collaboration is essential to growing business even though it might mean that you have to collaborate with your competition. Even if a business isn’t in direct competition with their collaborators they are still competing for talent or other limited resources. One great example of how businesses worked together is LoDo in Denver. When we think of Denver now it is booming and growing by leaps and bounds but a few decades ago it was floundering. It took restaurant and retail storeowners in lower downtown getting together to discuss ways to improve the area and then taking action on those discussions. There is great power in working together to improve the overall environment so that all businesses can benefit. Another great example of this is the local manufacturing meetings that happen on a monthly basis where manufacturers meet to discuss ways to solve some of their biggest challenges. These meetings bring together manufacturers, economic developers, workforce developers, OJC, and K-12 resources. This group has worked together to help bring new school curriculum to five local schools and is putting together a manufacturing week at the end of January to introduce students to local jobs and potential career paths within the manufacturing industry.

It doesn’t have to be just local manufacturers who work together. Healthcare, retail, agriculture, & non-profit industries can all find ways to work together to help improve the overall economic environment for the Arkansas Valley. If you want to discuss how your group can leverage the brainpower of your local industry, email Ryan Stevens at ryan.stevens@ojc.edu.

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