“Taking Care of Colorado Business"
Local entrepreneur starts statewide networking organization
By: Peter Jones
Brian Watson does not wait for opportunity to knock. When the Greenwood Village businessman lost his bid in the state House of Representatives last year, he did not give up on his campaign to help boost Colorado’s economy. Instead, he formed Opportunity Coalition.
“I realized there’s a real disconnect throughout the state with regards to the business community, the nonprofit world and the public-service world,” Watson said. “We really want to have a positive impact in the state and I think that can be created by people getting together and talking about what they do and figuring out how they may be able to collaborate together.”
Unlike a traditional chamber of commerce or economic-development group focused on a particular physical area, the nonprofit and nonpartisan Opportunity Coalition is venturing to cover all of Colorado by bridging the gaps between the Front Range, the mountains and the Western Slope. Watson, an Olathe native whose interests have ranged from manufacturing to operating a party-rental company, cites his own admittedly insular business world as an example and says many of his fellow entrepreneurs have fallen into the same rut.
“Most of my contacts are in my geographic area – Greenwood Village, Arapahoe County, the Front Range,” he said. “How many people do you interact with down in Pueblo or up in Fort Collins or out in Brush? While some businesses may function well in a hyper-provincial environment, Watson expects to see a range of unexpected results when Grand Junction wineries start converging with Tech Center cable executives.
“It’s really creating a platform where they can connect,” Watson said. For example, he says one of his own business associates recently bought a restaurant in Kremmling and was looking to serve Colorado beef. The only problem: The Grand County businessman did not know a soul in the state’s beef industry. “Wouldn’t it be great for him to connect with somebody over in Montrose or Olathe that has an organic beef farm to create jobs and opportunities?” Watson said.
Enter Opportunity Coalition and the organization’s plans for quarterly networking events to be held in different business centers throughout the state. This week’s debut event took place at Innovation Pavilion, a self-described “ecosystem for entrepreneurs.” The 90,000-square-foot incubator in Centennial helps foster a range of high-tech tenants.
“The youngest person to start a business there is still in high school and the oldest person is retired,” Watson said. “Each time we have one of these events, we’ll host it at a location to highlight some type of organization that’s having a great positive impact on Colorado.”
Watson said the next networking event would be held on the Western Slope. There are no fees to join, nor are there any membership requirements. “This is for entrepreneurs, executives, public servants or people who aren’t even employed.
College students can come to this and start to network,” Watson said.