Welch served as director of the Farmington business incubator for 12 years before stepping down last year. Judy Castleberry succeeded him as interim director.
Welch will continue to be based in Durango, Colo., where he runs a small office shared among several entrepreneurs called DurangoSpace.
The national association has its headquarters in Athens, Ohio, at the Ohio University Innovation Center. Welch said many of the association's staff work from far-flung locations.
"It's very doable — as long as my cell phone battery doesn't run out," he said.
Business incubators work to help small start-up companies grow until they can move out on their own. Locally, the Enterprise Center has aided companies such as Elite Energy Services and High Desert Valve and Equipment Co.
"I've always had a passion for business incubation," Welch said.
The National Business Incubation Association has 900 members, about three-quarters of them in the United States.
David Terry, chairman of NBIA's board, said Welch was hired for his leadership and experience.
"As a long-term member of NBIA and former incubator manager, Jasper understands the incubation industry," Terry said in a prepared statement. "He is a compassionate leader and a visionary who will bring diversity and growth to the association.
Welch began his new position Feb. 19.
Welch was elected to two terms on the Durango City Council, including two stints as mayor.
He has also served as a local chamber executive and on local boards.
Welch said his appointment is an example of how business leaders in small towns can make a difference.
"It's a big feather in the cap for both Farmington and Durango," he said. "Even if you're from a smaller town, you can be a thought leader on a bigger stage."
Chuck Slothower may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 564-4638. Follow Slothower on Twitter @DTChuck