Estes Institute to offer platform for idea exchange, investor interaction

By: Steve Monday October 15, 2012 0 comments Tags: Aspen Institute, COIN, Estes Park, Estes Park Library, John Cullen, Kelly Manning, OEDIT, SBDC, Walt Elish

By Steve Porter

ESTES PARK - The historic Stanley Hotel, with its spectacular backdrop of Estes Park and the scenic peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park, will be the setting for the Estes Institute for Innovation, gearing up to make its debut next spring.

The hotel, an iconic attraction sitting above the Town of Estes Park, is the official setting for the Estes Institute, which intends to offer a series of TBA conferences on innovation and entrepreneurship starting next year.

"John Cullen, owner of the Stanley, kindly offered the hotel for holding different activities," said Kelly Manning, director of the Colorado Small Business Development Center.

The SBDC Network is one of the Institute's prime sponsors, along with the Stanley and the Estes Valley Library.

Estes Institute logo"This is a really great opportunity to highlight the northern area of the state," Manning said of the draw conferences at the Stanley could have.

Manning said the idea is for the conferences to bring together business and innovation experts with companies and startups seeking advice on how to get their products and ideas into the marketplace, thereby helping to stimulate the economy.

"We're looking for businesses that are on the cusp and we can help them get over that hump," Manning said.

That goes for new companies and existing companies, Manning noted.

"We'd like to help our Colorado companies stay in Colorado," she said.

Manning said the Estes Institute will be based somewhat on the national conferences that have been taking place for years at the Aspen Institute.

"It's like the Aspen Institute, to bring in great minds to help" formulate new ideas, she said.

The Institute's first conference was supposed to take place at the end of this month, but a key speaker had to postpone his appearance and it will be rescheduled for 2013.

The launch of the Institute was to focus on aerospace and aviation. Manning said that's fitting, given Colorado's No. 2 rating for states with the most aerospace companies.

But the institute won't just be for conferences. Manning said it will also offer opportunities for startups to make appeals for investor funding.

"Pitching to investors will also be part of the Institute," she said. "We're trying to promote more national investors to Colorado, not just Colorado investors."

Good concept

Walt Elish, CEO of the Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp., said the NCEDC has been pushing for the creation of the Institute.

"The concept is a good one," he said. "We're interested in this and have been involved since Day One."

Elish said the Institute could provide the platform for speakers, venture capitalists, angel investors, cutting-edge startups and others to gather and solve funding and marketing issues.

"It's an opportunity to being all that together in one location, and it brings attention to Larimer County and Estes Park," he said.

The NCEDC is the nonprofit development organization working to enhance the economic health of Larimer County.

"Anything we can do to bring positive attention to Larimer County we want to be a part of," Elish said.

Elish said he and Cullen saw the Stanley as a place that could achieve a reputation for great ideas that the Aspen Institute has garnered.

"Both John and I had that vision to pattern it after the Aspen Institute," he said. "We want to bring in the great minds, notable people and also the national media."

Elish said the possibility of raising the region's profile with the national media is a great opportunity offered by the Institute.

"If you can get the national media to come for a signature event, we can use that opportunity to take them around the county and build those relationships," he said.

Manning said the postponement of the Institute's launch gives organizers more time to flesh out its possibilities and gather others to assist in its creation.

That includes the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade and the Colorado Office of Innovation (COIN).

"We want to make sure everybody is involved," she said.

Elish notes there's still much to do before the Institute is ready to open its doors.

"I think it's still a work in progress as to how this ultimately shapes out," he said. "But I think the expectation is to make it truly a regional - even a multi-state - event."


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