By Roger Zalneraitis

Executive Director La Plata Economic Development Alliance

Many economic development organizations throughout the country host signature business events each year to help build the economy in their communities. These events can be specific or more general depending on the region.

For example, more than one-third of all the animal health products in the world come from a geographic area anchored by Kansas City. The Kansas City Area Development Council hosts the Animal Health Homecoming each year, designed to allow for networking between animal health businesses and raising funds for new ventures.

Locally, the La Plata Economic Development Alliance hosts an annual Economic Summit for the purpose of fostering better dialogue between business and government leaders. This year will be the sixth year the event has been held, and will once again be held at the Sky Ute Casino Resort in Ignacio, Colo. on Oct. 24. The theme is "entrepreruralism" which means we are focusing on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in a rural area.

As I mentioned in my previous column, the La Plata Economic Development Alliance seeks to create jobs in La Plata County. We have a specific initiative to support growing firms that export goods and services outside the region. These are primary employers, or growth companies.

Traditional economic development literature would tell us that there should be few if any growth companies in our region. We should have oil and gas businesses, ranching, tourism, mining and timber, and that's about it.


We're just too far from major markets and workforce and trade routes for growth companies to thrive.

And yet, the Four Corners is home to numerous successful growth companies with national and even global footprints. Companies like Venture Snowboards in Silverton, Osprey Packs in Cortez, and some local Durango favorites such as StoneAge Waterblast Tools, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and SoundTraxx.

The focus of this year's Economic Summit is about what it takes for a growth company to succeed in a rural area like ours entrepreruralism.

Morning sessions will focus on important topics such as how local culture can fuel business success, innovative business environments, building distribution networks, contract manufacturing, finding and keeping great employees, and more.

Each session will feature speakers from successful local businesses who can use examples from their own experience to help other entrepreneurs in our region. The lunchtime keynote speaker will be Mark Weiler, president of Parelli Natural Horsemanship in Pagosa Springs, Colo. The afternoon session will be a dynamic interactive forum where you will have an opportunity to speak, hear from others and network with regional business leaders.

As you can see, this year's summit is not about any one county, but is instead about succeeding as a business in the Four Corners. Whether you're in Farmington, Kayenta, Blanding or Southwest Colorado, if you are interested in growing a business or want to know more about growing businesses in your area, this summit is for you!

If you are interested in learning more or to register to attend, please go to or contact us by email at and we'd be happy to assist. I'm looking forward to seeing you in October!

Roger Zalneraitis is executive director of the La Plata Economic Development Alliance