SBDC has nearly quadrupled the number of local businesses it serves under OConnell’s leadership.

After eight years as director of the Larimer Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Mike OConnell plans to retire at the end of this year.

“Mike has led the Larimer SBDC to be a relevant and valuable resource for existing and new small business owners,” said Jean Runyon, vice president of FRCC’s Larimer Campus. “He’s built useful strategic partnerships with economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, SBDC sponsors and other regional agencies that support local entrepreneurs.”    

The Larimer Small Business Development Center—which is hosted by Front Range Community College—helps ensure the vitality of northern Colorado’s economy by:

Colorado Small Business Development Center logo
  • cultivating existing companies,
  • nurturing new ventures,
  • fostering job creation,
  • and increasing business profitability.

Under OConnell’s leadership, the Larimer SBDC greatly expanded its efforts to support small business owners. When he joined the center in 2013, the SBDC team helped 320 clients that year. In 2020, his team helped more than 1,200 clients weather the COVID pandemic—ranking No. 1 in the state (out of Colorado’s 15 SBDCs).

Under OConnell’s leadership, the Larimer SBDC has consistently ranked in the top three centers statewide for these four key metrics:

  • new business starts,
  • client capital formation,
  • jobs created,
  • and client sales growth. 

“The Larimer SBDC program serves as a model for other Small Business Development Centers,” said Nicholas Spezza, dean of instruction at FRCC. “Mike is a respected and admired leader in the region. He will be deeply missed.”

OConnell’s Major Accomplishments at the SBDC

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Larimer SBDC formed a Funding Resource Team to help clients access COVID recovery funds, such as Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans and other loan and grant funds. As a result, Larimer SBDC helped local companies get $24.5 million in funding last year, and the center was ranked #1 in the state for client capital formation in 2020. 

In 2017, the Larimer SBDC launched the ScaleUp Smart program to support existing fast-growing businesses. In 2013, as part of the major flood recovery, the Larimer SBDC helped Estes Park and Loveland businesses obtain more than $4 million of Recovery Colorado grants.

During OConnell’s tenure as director, the Larimer SBDC also added industry-specific consultants for key sectors:

  • restaurant/food products,
  • retail,
  • health and wellness,
  • and non-profits.

More About OConnell

Mike O'Connell headshot

OConnell is a three-time presenter at the America’s SBDC national conference. He is a member, and former co-chair, of the Larimer Workforce Development Board. He also serves on the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Action Committee.

OConnell brought a wealth of business experience into his work with the SBDC. Earlier in his career, he worked as a sales/marketing and business unit executive for Victor Industries, an international welding equipment manufacturer. He then became co-owner and operator of Mountain Woods Furniture, a leading manufacturer of rustic wood furniture, from 2001 until its sale in 2012.

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About Front Range Community College

FRCC offers more than 100 degree and certificate programs from locations in Boulder County, Larimer County, Westminster, Brighton, and online. FRCC is a member of the Colorado Community College System.

About the Colorado Community College System

The Colorado Community College System (CCCS) is the state’s largest system of higher education, serving 138,000 students annually at 13 colleges and 39 locations across Colorado. Our open access mission ensures all Coloradans who aspire to enrich their lives have access to quality higher education opportunities.

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