One cannot simply talk about start-ups and accelerators that do the glamorous entrepreneurial work without acknowledging the regional development organizations that support them. The Durango Chamber of Commerce and the La Plata Economic Development Alliance work closely together. In addition to attracting and retaining businesses, the Durango Chamber of Commerce also provides educational and training programs for leaders of existing businesses and community organizations. One such program is Leadership La Plata.
Leadership La Plata educates and provides a common ground for “business leaders, government officials, non-profit directors, active private citizens and more – all committed to making a difference in La Plata County”. The annual, volunteer-run program is currently in its 28th year and has become influential and prestigious within the county. The program was started by a group of citizens and ran by local Fort Lewis college. Inspired by the success of Leadership Denver, they wanted a way to educate would-be local leaders about all aspects of the county and make them into strong leaders. Every year over 100 applicants from the county go through a rigorous application process. The final 18 are chosen to represent a diverse cross-section of La Plata’s businesses, institutions, and organizations. The annual program meets for classes throughout the year and attends a weekend retreat. The monthly classes cover themes like business administration, local arts & culture, safety, and local governance. The students meet with elected officials, county commissioners, business leaders, and leaders of local non-profits, educational institutions, and community groups. This helps students understand how local systems function and how their leaders work, and also creates relationships between that small group of students and established local leaders.
Alumni of Leadership La Plata “have a bond forever” and call each other up to collaborate on projects. Durango chamber of commerce manager Rita Simon remarks:
“We’re seeing [Leadership La Plata] graduates in those very roles we’re gearing them for” (Rita Simon, Durango Chamber)
Herself a graduate of Leadership La Plata, Ms. Simon mentioned that several former Durango mayors as well as heads of the chamber of commerce and heads of colorado state departments, have gone through Leadership La Plata. While it is hard to measure their impact, it is clear that inclusive leadership programs like these are positively impacting local economies and providing platforms for young leaders to shine. Leadership programs like these are already emerging on the Iron Range with ReGen and the Blandin Community Leadership Program, they should be empowered to foster a strong community of local leaders.
If this organization’s mission and ideas are of interest, look no further for their contact information:
|| leadershiplaplata.com || firstname.lastname@example.org || 970.247.0312 ||