Durango Tech is a loosely knit, informal group of folks who live in the Durango and Four Corners area and have an interest in tech. You don't have to be a geek - if you are an entrepreneur, investor, business owner, teacher, then you have a reason to stay current on technology. We are also passionate about drawing techies to the Durango area, and giving them options once they are here to be successful and thrive locally. Jump in!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Durango Chamber of Commerce 2010 Awards Finalists

The Durango Chamber of Commerce has announced their 2010 finalists for the various awards that they will present at their annual banquet on January 20th at FLC.

The ones that may be of most interest to Durango Tech are:

durango coloradoEntrepreneur of the Year: Durango Magazine (Julie Schultz), Creative Compass (Leanne and Mark Beasley) and Shaw Solar (John Shaw).
durango coloradoGreen Business Leadership Award: Durango Compost Company, Mantell-Hecathorn Builders Inc. and Shaw Solar

On the tech side, Buzztown is a finalist for Business of the Year.

The Durango Chamber of Commerce is a member based organization that promotes and supports the local business community. With more than 800 members, the Durango Chamber of Commerce acts as a resource of information for its members, the community, and relocation inquirers. It communicates business related issues and advocates on the behalf of its members. The chamber operates networking and educational programs all for the sake of building a stronger community and a greater quality of life.

You can follow the Chamber on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, December 13, 2010

No more Fort Lewis Computer Science Major

Last week the Herald announced that computer science, Southwest studies and agricultural science majors will be discontinued at Fort Lewis College by the end of the 2012-13 school year, according to a unanimous decision Friday by the college’s Board of Trustees. While it is unfortunate that any major is being cut, I was personally disappointed that computer science was one of the victims.

The primary reason stated was declining enrollment. If this is the case, then it is bucking the national trend. In fact, according to a recent CRA Taulbee report, the number of undergraduate students enrolled in computer science departments, and the number of new majors in computer science, have both increased for the second straight year. The number of new students majoring in computer science increased 8.5 percent over last year. The total number of majors increased 5.5 percent, yielding a two-year increase of 14 percent. Computer science graduation rates should increase in two to three years as these new students graduate.

Enrollment in computer science saw a massive decline in the early 2000's. This is attributed primarily to the implosion of the dot com era, when prospective students saw their odds of making a quick fortune in the industry disappear faster than Yahoo! profits. However, that trend has reversed, and the industry as a whole is looking good again, in no small part due to the ability for tech companies to establish themselves and operate with a lot less overhead. Investors are also flocking back to tech in the last couple of years.

Computer science jobs pay very well, right out of college. The starting pay of certain liberal arts majors generally clocks in well below that of graduates in engineering fields, according to a recent Wall Street Journal study. The survey also shows that they maintain this compensation gap throughout their careers, and that employers tend to hire these grads for what would typically be a job for a liberal arts major.

There are 2 immediate impacts as a result of this decision. First, local high school students who show an aptitude for computer science will have to go elsewhere for their post-secondary education. And secondly, there is no flow of local graduate talent that can stay in the area and get a great job.

Maybe the answer would have been to better promote these programs. Maybe Durango Tech should have come into existence sooner. Either way, let's continue to promote local tech jobs and companies, so that we create a strong voice to get this program reinstated down the road.

I would love to hear the thoughts of others on this.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

2011 - Good for CO Tech, not so good for a lot of others

According to the CU Leeds School of Business 46th annual Colorado Business Outlook, 2011 will still be a rough year for jobs in the State, and the Durango area is no exception.

The good news for those of us in technology and science fields is that about 7,000 jobs will be added next year. How many of those will be in our area is really up to us.

Are you planning on hiring in 2011? Let us know.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Some local businesses are thriving

A great article in the Herald yesterday, showcasing local businesses that are doing well, despite tough economic times. I particularly like the description of the 'cascading effect' that Joe Keck and others mention. Also - do you see the common theme? All the businesses shown in the article do most of their business outside of Durango (in fact across the country) - which means they are bringing dollars into our region.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What I remember from 11/11 DOCC

Another great turnout! It's awesome to see all the new faces and to get to know the folks in the Durango area who work in the technology sector, have businesses here, or are passionate about something that could use a little boost from the right tech.

Among the new faces were:

It seemed like everyone there had a connection with Syndicom except me. There was some catching up, as a lot of these folks knew each other but hadn't seen each other in a while - another great reason to come out to DOCC!

We talked about the challenges of attracting good talent to open positions here. Both Walker and Jenny are hiring right now. We are going to add a Jobs section to this blog over the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned and post those open positions.

Mark gave us a great overview of what the Mountain Middle School is all about, and the challenges that come with starting a charter middle school here. He is responsible for the technology to support the students, and has decided on Google Apps because they offer it for free. He considered iPads for each student but in the end found an inexpensive netbook that is more bulletproof and easier to type on (without the need for additional components). A lot of discussion back and forth about why there is a need for a charter school with a teaching style that challenges the kids.

We also discussed doing an an evening event where people with great ideas, or early stage companies already running, can get up in front of an audience of their peers and pitch. The thought is that the pitch be 5 minutes long, with open ended dialog afterwards to provide feedback and input. Who knows what will come out of it - a new partner, an investment, a better focus on the idea. We are going to aim for early January for this event so stay tuned! And if you would like to pitch, contact me by leaving a comment here - we already have 3 people committed and there are only so many slots.

If you were there and have anything to add - leave a comment!

All in all, a fun and interesting morning. Hope to see you at the next one!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Do you know about the SBDC?

Did you know that there is an excellent local resource that can help you start your small business, or take it to the next level?

Run by the State of Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), the Colorado Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network is dedicated to helping small businesses throughout Colorado achieve their goals by providing Free confidential counseling and various training programs. The SBDC combines information and resources from federal, state and local governments with those of the educational system and the private sector to meet the specialized and complex needs of the small business community. Regulatory, management, financial and marketing experts work in partnership to provide entrepreneurs with crucial information that can mean the difference between success and failure.

You can find a list of the programs that they offer here.

Durango is home to the Southwest Colorado Center, which is directed by Joe Keck. They serve the surrounding 5 counties as well as 2 Tribes. They offer consulting, mentorship, and various workshops on the different elements that it takes to be a successful small business owner here and now.

Counseling is free, and the workshops ask for a small fee. In 2009, our local SBDC counseled more than 350 clients.

SBDC recently offered NxLevel, a 12-week evening class for entrepreneurs which was well attended and written up in the Herald.

I have recently joined the Board of Advisors, and am looking forward to working with small businesses in our area. Of course, my focus is on Technology - either companies in the sector, or companies that are wanting to use technology for competitive advantage.

Ping me if you want more info, or contact Joe Keck directly.  I will post updates on SBDC happenings as they come onto the radar.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Brad Feld on creating a sustainable entrepreneurial community

Brad says it well in this recent post. Where do you think we should start? What resources do we already have that we should leverage?

Durango Open Coffee Club

DOCC had their third get-together yesterday. The idea behind it is to allow people who are in technology, own a small business, or are entrepreneurs or investors to get together in an informal setting and get to know each other. we chat about whatever comes to mind, with a little prodding from the hosts where needed.

There are so many of us in the area, and a lot of us have no idea who else is out there. Many of us are remote workers, and depend on phone calls, email, and social networking for our contacts during the day. There are a lot of local resources that could be tapped if we only knew about them.

Yesterday's session was a great one, with a few special guests. Joe Keck, who is the Director of the Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center which provides free counseling services to existing and start-up businesses. The Center also provides workshops and training programs for small businesses.  The territory served by the Center includes: Archuleta County, Dolores County, La Plata County, Montezuma County, San Juan County, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe.

We also had Gary Masner, a well known local business consultant and investor. Gary managed to squeeze this in before heading out on a month-long sail in the Caribbean.

And there was Robert Yearout with Professional Associates of Fort Lewis College, which is an organization comprised of people with substantial professional, business, or academic experiences and skills. The organization endeavors to use this reservoir of expertise in support of Fort Lewis College’s role as a multifaceted learning resource for its students and for the people of the Four Corners region.
Rounding out the group were Walker Thompson, Scot Davis of
Sage Technology, Robin Johnson from Syndicom, Nathan Disser from Southwest Adventure Guides, Richard Leavitt from Rally Software, and myself.

A lot of the conversation was around how we could increase the number of technology sector companies and jobs in our area. It requires a blend of investors, entrepreneurs and talent. We have some of this now, but need to do more. 

The first step is to start the conversation flowing amongst ourselves and see what we come up with as far as initiatives and ideas. We also need to start to identify what talent we have around the area already, and what they need to to be successful. To that end, we are rounding up local entrepreneurs with business ideas and doing a 'pitch night', probably in late November. Stay tuned on format and logistics... but hey, if you have an idea you want to pitch, let me know!

We are getting some great momentum around these coffee get-togethers.  Come on out to the next one and hang out, get to know people like you who live and work here, and join the fun!