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11/6/2003

CTEK-Longmont a success story

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — A year ago, it was just an idea.

A few months ago, CTEK-Longmont was started with no funding, no clients and no staff.

Today, not only has CTEK re-established itself in Longmont, but the nonprofit group has plans in the coming year of doubling its member companies here and more than doubling its budget.

Susan Pratt, chairwoman of CTEK and co-chair of the CTEK-Longmont steering committee, said the early success of CTEK-Longmont has piqued the interest of other communities looking to spur entrepreneurship.

“They” — meaning CTEK’s 30-member board of directors — “have given us the opportunity to become the model for other communities — to show how this can be done in other communities,” Pratt said Wednesday at the Raintree Conference Center.

Wednesday’s luncheon was to thank the investors that supported CTEK-Longmont, and to outline the group’s goals for 2004.

CTEK, originally known as the Boulder Technology Incubator, was actually located in Longmont for a few years in the mid-90s.

It relocated to Boulder to establish closer ties to the University of Colorado, and for a time shut down its offices here.

After hiring new president Lu Cordova in 2001, BTI soon re-organized itself into CTEK and shifted its focus from being a traditional business incubator focused only on Boulder County to becoming a statewide organization geared to assisting entrepreneurs in many ways.

For example, CTEK can connect entrepreneurs with hundreds of advisers who have expertise in areas they may be lacking, and can even help young companies secure funding .

Cordova later approached Pratt with the idea of getting a Longmont extension of CTEK started again, and a committee of nearly 20 people worked to make it happen.

This spring, Alex Sammoury, himself a former entrepreneur, was hired to become executive director.

Just in seven months, he has helped bring six companies into CTEK-Longmont.

“It has to be a community that says, ‘we want to build small businesses in our community,’” said Pratt, who encouraged companies to participate beyond just their donations.

Conduant Corp. is a non-resident member of CTEK-Longmont, meaning they don’t have their offices located at CTEK-Longmont’s physical facility at 1821 Lefthand Circle.

Founder and CEO Ken Owens said that having access to the advisers CTEK has available to its members can be invaluable to an entrepreneur.

“That’s by far the biggest (advantage of membership),” Owens said. “The network of people that you can bring to bear and get advice from is unbelievable.”

For the coming year, CTEK-Longmont is hoping to raise $150,000 — far more than the $52,000 it raised for this year — and to recruit six new companies, three resident and three non-resident.

Small businesses can become big businesses, and CTEK president Lu Cordova said that with her organization’s help, companies have a 74 percent long-term survival rate, as opposed to the 25 percent survival rate of companies that go it alone.

“I think the key is understanding the entrepreneur’s needs,” said Sammoury. “Having been there myself, and understanding the struggles of keeping my own company alive, you understand what they’re going through.”