One Woman’s Journey From a Coffee Shop Owner to a Congresswoman: Betsy Markey Is Now in Charge of Colorado’s Revived Focus on Small Ventures

Congresswoman: Betsy Markey

The former U.S. representative says she considers small ventures that already exist important and would like to concentrate on them. She was attracted by the lifestyle of northern Colorado but stayed there as the person in charge of the economic development office of the state.

One Woman’s Journey From a Coffee Shop Owner to a Congresswoman: Betsy Markey Is Now in Charge of Colorado’s Revived Focus on Small Ventures

Betsy Markey and her young family moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1995. She began feeling restless following their relocation.

She moved from Maryland with her husband when the tech firm they had established became independent. She realized she was through with living there and decided to relocate.

Upon their arrival in Colorado, she opened a small coffee shop in Old Town Fort Collins. She discovered she enjoyed managing a small venture and everything it implied — making cappuccino, handling the cash register, and cleaning the bathroom.

Markey, who now does for Colorado the same thing she used to do for her small venture, said she had bought a business to get involved since she had not known anyone in the state. She described her undertaking as really fun. As explained by her, she got to hire students instead of engineers, sales people, and programmers, and she said her employees at the time had been fun and hard-working. In addition to that, she was able to bring her three small children to work with her, which was a big advantage.

Markey’s destiny may have never been to own a small business. Since her days as an owner of a coffee shop, she has been a U.S. representative for Colorado’s 4th Congressional District; she has also served at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as an assistant secretary during Obama’s presidency, and unsuccessfully ran for Colorado treasurer in 2014.

However, the world she was once a part of continues to affect her decisions. She had been a regional leader of the U.S. Small Business Administration prior to being selected by Governor Jared Polis as executive director of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade. She became responsible for shaping the economy of the state of Colorado.


Her priority is small enterprises, above all in rural areas.

During an interview that has recently been conducted in her office, Markey stated that firms came to Colorado because of its lifestyle and culture but said she wanted to focus on helping small ventures. She expressed her enthusiasm about developing small ventures that were already there.

Polis is interested in the idea as well, especially since he had established several businesses himself before he became a politician. He sold the said businesses for several hundreds of millions of dollars. Markey befriended Polis in 2008, when they had both just became politicians for the state in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In one statement, Polis described Markey as the perfect choice for the leader of the state’s Department of Economic Development and International Trade, considering her background. According to him, thanks to her own engagement in public service, she understands the significance of small ventures for Colorado and is able to sustain the improvement of the state’s economy in a way that is beneficial for everyone.

Since she became executive director of OEDIT in January, Markey has preserved the status quo for Colorado’s essential industries, including agriculture and exports, tourism and film, aerospace and advanced manufacturing, as well as others. She has recently arrived at the state after being on a trip to South Korea as this country became the largest international purchaser of Colorado beef during last year.

Because of her experience regarding small businesses, Markey opened up a “rural prosperity” position, which has been filled by Glenn Plagens, who had previously been at the Larimer Small Business Development Center. Additionally, the office features a program offering access to mentors, experts, and attorneys to employee-owned firms.

Markey has recently toured the eastern border of Colorado along with some other state agencies and visited local ventures in Burlington, Lamar, and Holyoke.

As stated by Rol Hudler, director of economic development for Burlington, a town of around 4,400 residents to which agriculture is the main source of income, never has the town welcomed that many agencies. He said the visit had been successful as they had eagerly talked to people personally.

Hudler was pleased that the group, which also comprised representatives from labor and agriculture departments of the state, offered true resources to the region. However, he has his doubts about Markey being able to help with bigger issues in rural areas. He said they were regularly making attempts at expanding the local economy in vain. According to him, that is the case with rural areas in America in general as companies have to bring employees with them unless a certain region has a strong workforce.

The Importance of Small Businesses in the State

The economic development office of the state had been working with rural communities and small ventures even before Markey came into the picture, although it had been known for motivating job-growth in order to attract companies such as Amazon to relocate to Colorado.

small-business in the US

Markey said that practice would not change. As claimed by her, she has been concentrating on small ventures and rural areas. Her team has been engaged in succession planning among small ventures owners that are about to retire in addition to providing opportunities for building remote labour force to rural communities. The initiatives are about to be officially launched soon.

According to Markey, her team concentrates on certain things as the state government. Those things are a reflection of governors goals, some of which are having 100% renewable energy by 2040, decreasing healthcare costs, development of rural economy, and education improvement. She said that everything her team did was in that spirit.

The repercussions of attracting big establishments and providing them with motives to stay were apparent to the entire nation last November, when Amazon focused its second search for headquarters on Virginia and New York. However, protests by local activists and lawmakers made Amazon leave New York and withdraw $3 billion in government inducement.

The state of Colorado, which is among the twenty finalists for the Amazon HQ2, is controlled by state law in terms of inducement. According to state officials, the value of inducement to Amazon would have probably surpassed $10 million, but the money would be a tax credit provided for any relocating firm in a chosen industry and would come into effect only if the firm met job-expansion targets.

Since Markey came into the picture, the state of Colorado has announced the arrival of a background-check company from San Francisco called Checkr, whose goal is to hire 1,500 people in the city of Denver within a 10-year period; as well as a construction and engineering company Kiewit from Nebraska, that is establishing new regional headquarters in Lone Tree and aims to hire 1,100 workers. Both companies are establishing regional headquarters in the state of Colorado, and both of them have job-growth inducement — $27.8 million and $18.65 million respectively. Markey stated that attracting out-of-state firms continued to be a part of her job.

As stated by her, that is still hers and her team’s priority. They are looking into ways to lower the unemployment rate. According to her, there are companies that choose to relocate to Colorado. However, she said that they were also concentrating on providing assistance to small ventures and helping them grow, regardless of the nature of such businesses — they may be startups or small companies with three to five people that wish to expand. Markey repeated that small firms were at the center of their focus.

Fiona Arnold, Markey’s forerunner, who held the position between 2014 and 2016, is currently president of Mainspring, a real estate developer that builds condos in the city of Denver. She said she supported Markey’s way of thinking as it used to be her own at the time when she held the job.

Arnold, who is now engaged in establishing a five-story hotel in the Five Points quarter in Denver, said that it was increasingly challenging for small ventures from Colorado to succeed and explained that was something her team had become aware of while contemplating about the whole ecosystem of the state. She added that it was difficult to find a location and make a living in the state. According to Arnold, people perceive the entire situation poorly, as they believe the country to be in expansion business-wise. She made a point by saying that the number of startups in the U.S. in this day and age is significantly lower in comparison to the number of startups in the 1970s.

Arnold would rather concentrate on thriving local businesses than on attracting the larger ones from out-of-state and getting them to relocate to Colorado.

According to her, small ventures are the way of getting your money’s value. She said that home-grown ventures remained faithful to their roots and did not leave when offered more money.

The president of the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce, David May, said he hoped for the state to concentrate on retention and growth of primary employees. In his area, there is an obvious decline in chip makers and tech firms that used to dominate the entire region.

According to his word, OEDIT ought to publicly recommend affordable and reliable electricity, suggest minimizing mandates on employers to the legislature and administration, advocate for growing road and interstate capacity, as well as for the growth of training funds, in order to achieve the goal of concentrating on retention and growth of primary employees. To put it simply, other than advertising the region to new and existing primary employers, the state should focus on issues that directly influence the state’s business ecosystem as well.

Markey sold her coffee shop in 2001 to CooperSmith’s in Old Town Square. Although she still resides in Fort Collins, she sublets an apartment in downtown Denver in order to be able to walk to work. However, she would gladly travel as often and as far as needed, as she is eager to listen to the business community all over the state. She will be going on more road trips during the current year.

According to her, the best ideas come from communities.

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