I'm Toying with Expansion
Marie Hueston - Owner, Family Flex
Marie Hueston, a former telecommunications marketer, and her husband could not find a place to care for their two young children amid their demanding work schedules. Unable to rearrange her life and work schedule, Marie decided to take matters into her own hands. She decided she was going to open her own center that would provide flexibility in its hours for the sometimes arduous schedules working professional parents have.

“We didn’t want to make another 9-5 early childhood center,” Hueston said. “We felt there was a serious need to meet the demands of the modern professional parent whose hours often don’t coincide with the 9-5 day.”

But starting a new kind of day-care facility was unproven and risky. When Hueston calculated the numbers after receiving a loan from a local bank, she was still short a third of the needed funding. So, she went to the Denver Office of Economic Development (OED), and with their assistance, Marie got a low-interest loan from the City. Marie received the working capital to buy supplies, pay rent, hire staff and open her doors. And by starting her business in an Enterprise Zone, Marie also received tax incentives and employee assistance.

OED sat down with me and listened to my proposal,” Hueston said. “They got it right away. They knew this was something Denver was craving and how important establishing small businesses are to Denver’s economy.”

With the boost from the OED, Marie Hueston has established a thriving early childhood center. The Family Flex Center is one of only 8 percent of Early Childhood Centers that is accredited. Marie’s business has created 20 new jobs while taking care of children up until 11 p.m. and on weekends for more than 800 crazy-busy families in Denver. Not to mention her own.


Green Collar Work in a Growing Industry
Dave Bebout - Energy Consultant for Envergent
Similar to many people today, Dave Bebout was unemployed and found himself looking for work in the wake of economic turmoil. Determined to stand out and make a wave in the job world, Dave turned to the CareerReady Colorado Certificate Program, CRC.

“One of the biggest challenges people face when looking for a job is trying to make sure our resumes don't get lost in the shuffle,” Bebout said.

Thanks to the CareerReady Certificate program, Dave’s resume was anything but lost. The CRC helped Dave demonstrate his qualifications and commitment to the job searching process. The certification helped increase the visibility of his application and Dave’s skills and proficiencies were quickly noticed by employers.

“The CRC credential represents a genuine investment in my career development and is an achievement that I believe has allowed me to obtain a higher wage position than without it,” Bebout said. “Most importantly, this credential allowed me to present concrete proof of my capabilities to potential employers.”

Envergent, an up and coming Denver-based company focused on energy efficiency and indoor air quality, had also turned to the OED’s CareerReady and Wage Subsidy Programs to help with recruiting and staffing.

Through the City and County of Denver’s Wage Subsidy Program, employers have a strong resource available for recruiting for entry-level positions. In exchange for providing workers with the proper training and needed experience, businesses are eligible to receive subsidies up to 50% reimbursement of wages lasting from one to six months for participation.

Finding staff who match our high standards for professionalism, dedication and customer service is difficult” Envergent President Glenn Morris said. “Recruiting is expensive and anyone who has posted job openings knows how frustrating and time consuming it can be to weed through the applicants to arrive at a short list of qualified candidates.”

The Office of Economic Development’s Workforce Center helped make the staffing process quick and easy, providing Envergent with five skilled CareerReady Colorado Certified candidates to interview for an Energy Consulting job opening.

Dave Bebout was selected out of the candidates for the position and after seven months of on-the-job training, he is now a certified Energy Consultant and hard at work. “I greatly appreciate what the states workforce system, the Office of Economic Development and the Career Ready Colorado Certificate has done for me and my career.”


Turning a Career Dream into Reality
Emily Wake - Certified Nursing Assistant

Emily Wake knew since she was a little girl that she wanted to be in healthcare. As she grew up, the Denver Office of Economic Development’s Youth Services helped turn her dream into reality.

Emily knew she wanted to be a part of one of the now fastest growing industries, the healthcare industry, but did not know what role she wanted to play or where to start. She found guidance to help sharpen her focus through OED’s job readiness training and career exploration programs.

My case manager at the time was very helpful in guiding me in getting an Education Assistance Account to pay for the training, which I would not have been able to do on my own,” said Wake. After completing these training programs, her career goals became more clear and obtainable. She began working at a long-term healthcare facility to obtain her certification as a Certified Nursing Assistant.

But her education did not stop there. Driven and hungry for more, Emily participated in OED’s Pre-Professional Occupations–Health Program, a nationally-recognized program that connected 77 youth last year with training, shadowing and mentoring at local healthcare organizations. The experience inspired her to obtain the training and certification needed to become a Licensed Practical Nurse. “I learned so many different things from this program,” said Wake. “I learned things to help me with finding a job and keeping a job, I learned things about healthcare and I just learned a lot from being around a lot of new people.”

In just over three years, Emily has grown in both her personal and career goals. She is finishing up her Licensed Practical Nurse certification with assistance from the Education Assistance Account through the Workforce Investment Act. “I hope to become a Registered Nurse before I am 30,” Wake said. “After that I would like to find a position in a hospital and continue to help people and my community.”

 Cultivating Seeds of Community in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea Neighborhood

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. This ancient Chinese proverb seems to be the basis of operation for GrowHaus, a non-profit community farm and educational establishment.

Located in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood, GrowHaus is an indoor farm, marketplace and educational center that provides space for families to grow and harvest food year round. Prior to the development of Grow Haus, Elyria-Swansea was considered a food desert, meaning the neighborhood had no close access to healthy, affordable food. GrowHaus’ mission is to provide sustainable agriculture in an urban environment by teaching neighborhood residents about gardening and eating healthy while providing them with healthy, affordable food.

“It’s basically a way to tackle the realization that in our society right now there’s a serious disconnect between people and the food they are using to sustain themselves,” said GrowHaus Director of Operations Adam Brock.

Through weekly tours, family grow plots, do-it-yourself workshops and student outreach programs, the GrowHaus staff hopes to educate and connect the community to one another and the food that they eat.

The Office of Economic Development has helped GrowHaus cultivate their goals by providing Community Development Block Grant funds. These funds will assist GrowHaus with installing a year-round hydroponic system, a soilless water-based growing medium. The OED support is also helping with replacing the roof with energy efficient panels and installing state-of-the-art heaters and coolers.

“It’s the beginning of our relationship. Thus far they have been really supportive of us,” said Brock. “We are really fortunate that Denver’s OED is willing to invest in something that they see the promise in because it is on the cutting edge of urban agriculture technology.”

GrowHaus has big plans for continued growth, which include expanded food production to supply local restaurants, as well as an onsite, full-service market. Currently, five families are growing everything from cilantro to carrots at the nonprofit’s facility, and it aims to have plots for more than 30 families. Grow Haus hopes to complete the community atmosphere with a coffee shop and educational center to host conferences, gatherings and community dinners — a place where people can “eat and learn together.”




Home Again
Neighborhood Stabilization Program Helps Homebuyers While Spurring Revitalization

Ibrahim Murekatete, his wife and five children left Uganda as refugees, but now have become American homeowners thanks to the efforts of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

The NSP is a federally-funded program that allows municipalities to acquire, redevelop, and resell foreclosed and abandoned properties to buyers in need of affordable housing. Targeting neighborhoods that have experienced the greatest incidence of foreclosure, the NSP’s goals are to reduce blight, stabilize neighborhoods, and curb the declining values of neighboring homes. The Denver Office of Economic Development has been awarded more than $31 million in NSP funds, allowing the City to restore several hundred properties back to productive use.

Ibrahim and his family first learned of the NSP through their participation in the Denver Housing Authority’s Homeownership Program. They joined the program in May of 2010, and after being assessed as financially stable by DHA, they were ready to buy their first home in America.

Through the African Community Center, the Murekatetes opened an IDA Savings Plans—a savings plan where they were able to save money and then receive matched funds up to four-to-one. The IDA, administered by the Mile High United Way and funded through OED’s federal Community Development Block Grants, was a vital tool in helping the family get to the spot where they could become homeowners.  

To find their first home, the family searched through an inventory of NSP properties on the city’s Take Root Denver website. Take Root Denver is a housing campaign sponsored by Freddie Mac and OED that promotes home ownership and foreclosure prevention. In addition to homeownership counseling resources, links to financial assistance, and foreclosure prevention information, the website promotes homes that have been rehabilitated by OED’s team of home redevelopment agencies.  

One of these partner agencies, Del Norte Neighborhood Development Corporation, offered the home chosen by the Murekatete family as their first venture into American home ownership. With assistance from a real estate agent and lender, the Murekatetes underwent the home-buying process.

After being forced to leave their home in Uganda and relocate to the United States, the Murekatete family made owning a home in America a goal. Now, with four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a basement, and an attached garage, the Murekatetes have plenty of space to live and build many happy memories in Denver.

A New Source for Recovery
Eating Recovery Center

With a mission to offer healing, hope and recovery for individuals and families fighting eating disorders, Denver’s Eating Recovery Center (ERC) began its treatment program for adults in 2008.

The Eating Recovery Center is the only independent freestanding hospital in the U.S. devoted entirely to the treatment of eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia. Their location near downtown in Denver’s medical district has been celebrated for its serene, therapeutic environment and its comprehensive, collaborative treatment philosophy. Thanks to the overwhelming positive reception from the community, and due to the shortage of treatment centers focusing solely on adolescent disorders the ERC recently expanded to include another center.

“As soon as we opened our adult treatment center the program filled up, and due to the increasing demand for a program focused on adolescents and children we pursued the second treatment center,” said Andrew Braun, executive director.

Statistics show eating disorders in the adolescent age range are on the rise. Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among children ages 10-18, and 95% of those with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25. In order to create a new facility to match the standards of the adult center, the ERC needed to secure additional capital to fund the expansion.

The Denver Office of Economic Development proved to be an ideal financing partner for the expansion project. Financing supplied by OED’s CDBG-R (American Recovery & Reinvestment Act) funds bridged the “gap” ERC experienced. The OED loan not only provided assistance to children and their families, but the project is on target to create approximately 50 new jobs in the community.

“We were actually exploring workforce development options, and discovered the possibility of financial assistance through the City,” said Braun.

Eating Recovery Center’s Behavioral Hospital for Children and Adolescents opened in the Lowry neighborhood in January 2011, and according to Braun, they are “very much on track with their projections for the year.” Now, with the only independent freestanding hospital devoted entirely to the treatment of children and adolescents with eating disorders, the Eating Recovery Center has grown into a recognized leader for recovery and hope.

For more information on the Transitions for Young Adults Program please click on the Yahoo Group link below