Denver Seeks Fund Partner to Support Small Business Investment

Published on February 16, 2022

DenverDenver Economic Development & Opportunity (DEDO) is launching the city’s largest small business investment program in history, fueled by a recently approved allocation from cannabis sales tax revenue. The fund, announced by Mayor Michael B. Hancock in his 2021 State of the City Address and included in his 2022 budget, allocates one percent of Denver’s cannabis sales tax revenue starting this year directly to this new small business investment fund, which is expected to raise approximately $5M per year over the next five years. The funding will be used for accessible loans, grants, and culturally relevant technical assistance and professional services for existing small companies as well as entrepreneurs seeking to start, restructure, or improve their success.

“Many minority and women-owned businesses, and entrepreneurs in communities of color, have lacked access to capital, and it’s time to level the playing field and leverage the profits of retail marijuana to correct these challenges,” Mayor Hancock said. “This fund is going to change the landscape for many years to come, and with a core focus on equity and access, this investment in grassroots job creation and family wealth-building will be a powerful boost for our city’s future and the future of these businesses and entrepreneurs.” 

DEDO will first identify a fund partner, expected to lead a consortium of area nonprofits and business support entities that can administer the funds and associated services in an innovative and approachable manner. A Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a fund administrator and its assembled partners – combining forces to bring proven technical assistance to small businesses – has been released today, with a pre-bid information session planned for February 28 and proposals due March 30.

“The devastation of the pandemic-induced recession has created a remarkable opportunity to pursue new strategies for economic development, like adding significant technical assistance to grants so that our smallest and most under-resourced businesses have an entire support network to rely on,” said interim DEDO Executive Director Jen Morris. “Emergency grants were a temporary fix, but this fund has been deliberately designed with a great deal of community input, especially around equity and the elements small businesses need to thrive in our new economy.”

When a fund partner is under contract, subject to approval by Denver City Council, the program design will be finalized and DEDO expects applications for funding and associated assistance to open in late 2022. 

About Denver Economic Development & Opportunity 
Denver Economic Development & Opportunity (DEDO) is leading an inclusive and innovative economy for all Denver residents, businesses, and neighborhoods by supporting local and global business development, workforce development programs, and stabilization efforts in Denver’s diverse neighborhoods. Learn more at www.denvergov.org/economicdevelopment.

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