Democrats have economy bills brewing

Small-business development center could get $500K boost

DENVER – Opening a brewery in Colorado might seem like a can’t-lose proposition, given the state’s bottomless appetite for craft beer, but there’s more to it than getting the hops and yeast right.

Patrick Crawford discovered that when he and a partner started the Denver Beer Co. For help, they turned to a Small Business Development Center. They got help writing a business plan, plus 30 to 40 hours of free consulting. They now have 13 employees.

“We’ve been able to grow our business, I think, because of help at the Small Business Development Center,” Crawford said.

Democrats in the state House of Representatives want to add $500,000 to the centers’ budget during the next two years. The idea will be one of their first five bills when the yearly session begins today.

The centers have a staff of four and have helped businesses that created 1,700 jobs, said Rep. Max Tyler, D-Golden, the bill’s sponsor.

“I think it’s a great bang for the buck. It creates more jobs in Colorado,” Tyler said.

Tyler tried three times in previous years to add funding for the centers, but his party was in the minority.

This year, Democrats hold a 37-28 majority over Republicans, and they are rolling out economic bills with a different flavor than the kind favored by the GOP.

Republicans focused their two years in power on cutting regulations on businesses. Democrats, instead, have bills to leverage the government’s money or authority in the hopes of expanding the economy.

Other bills in their package focus on job training. One will allow out-of-work people to use their unemployment benefits for a broader range of job-training programs. Another bill will create technical training programs at community colleges for adults who lack a high school degree.

“What you’ll see the most this session is the Democratic Legislature working to find the tools to help businesses. It’s not about dictating,” said Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver.

jhanel@durangoherald.com