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Explore LoDo app launches, shows Denver’s past and present

To help connect visitors and residents with Denver’s history as well as its current businesses and attractions the LoDo District recently introduced Explore LoDo. The new app shows off historical places in the heart of Denver and harnesses information from Historic Denver, Denver Public Library and other sources to give users updates on what’s going on in the neighborhood. 

“LoDo is a dynamic neighborhood with a unique blend of history and modernity,” said Leslie Sale, Executive Director of the LoDo District. “We have been able to protect this balance because of the work of historic preservationists and creative reuse strategies. This app will help locals and visitors discover, engage and connect with Lower Downtown Denver, as well as preserve its history and stories of yesteryear.”

The app, which was developed by Envie Media, uses beacons and geofencing to alert users to the history of more than 25 locations in LoDo when they’re nearby. The alert offers a short history of each location and includes historical pictures of the location and contemporary pictures of the location. Users can also share their pictures and stories of LoDo through the app. 

Explore LoDo also includes a directory of downtown’s businesses, including restaurants, places to go for entertainment, clothing stores and more. It also provides them with information about events taking place in LoDo.

The app is available for Apple devices and Android devices. People can check out the app at lodo.org/app.

Denver launches business accelerator for healthy foods in underserved neighborhoods

The Denver Office of Economic Development has partnered with The Unreasonable Institute to launch the Food Access Project  in underserved neighborhoods. The accelerator is offering a training and mentorship program to support 10 ventures to improve access to food in select low-income communities in Denver. 

“It’s exciting to be able to bring the city’s resources together with the ingenuity of entrepreneurs,” says Teju Ravilochan, CEO of The Unreasonable Institute. “This partnership combines the innovation of nimble startups with the systems-shifting capabilities of the city government, creating the potential to really make a lot of people’s lives better.” 

The program is focused on reducing food insecurity in Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, Montbello, Westwood, Northeast Park Hill, Five Points, and other neighborhoods. Early stage ventures can apply to the Food Access Project through June 25.

“This is part of our proactive approach to building healthier communities throughout the city,” explains Amy Edinger, OED interim executive director. “By targeting entrepreneurs, small businesses and nonprofits, we recognize that Denver has a broad talent pool of individuals that, with a little support and key introductions, can make a lasting difference in addressing food insecurity.”

The program will provide each of the participants with a five-day in-person bootcamp. The effort will also provide six months of support from mentors, financial modeling training from Unreasonable Financial Architects, access to investors, and a network of over 530 Unreasonable Institute ventures across the world.

Denver-area startups win $15K in national Calvert Foundation competition

It was a Denver-area sweep for the 2016 Calvert Foundation Small Business Competition, with three local businesses winning the top three prizes in the national competition.

Outdoor adventure and clothing store Feral Mountain Company, took the top prize, $10,000. Denver's Pearl Wine Company took second, winning $3,000 and Golden-based rock and ice-climbing service Golden Mountain Guides, took third, winning $2,000.

"We are very proud of all our borrowers who participated in this competition and heartily congratulate those who won," says Ceyl Prinster, CEO of Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF), which supported each of the winners. "Starting a business can be cash-intensive, so when our borrowers are able to access additional funding that can help them grow to the next level, we are all for it."

It was the first time the Calvert Foundation held the competition, which was open to small businesses that received financing from nonprofit lenders like CEF. The goals of the contest, sponsored by the Calvert Foundation, were to promote small businesses with ties to the local community, enhancing business operations and educating people on investing in the local community and businesses that create local jobs. The contest also was aimed at generating awareness of the Calvert Foundation's Community Investment Note, which supports investments in small businesses. 

"We had over 5,000 votes -- way more than we expected," says Senior Officer of Investor Relations at the Calvert Foundation Katherine St. Onge. "We are so thrilled that the participants were able to showcase the value of small businesses to so many people!"

The Maryland-based Calvert Foundation launched the Ours To Own (OTO) Denver campaign in 2014. That effort is designed to channel capital towards community development efforts in Denver.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Denver Food Vision introduced for public comment

The first draft of the Denver Food Vision is open to public comment through the end of January. Officials aim to help the city further improve the food system, create jobs and improve access to healthy food.

Officials say Denver's food system includes tens of thousands of skilled food system employees, thousands of businesses and hundreds of nonprofits, school and community gardens. It also includes food pantries and emergency food access. Despite those factors, the city also states that nearly 20 percent of children experience food insecurity or hunger. The new plan aims to address all those issues.

"From farm to table, Denver's food system presents an incredible opportunity to strengthen the health of our communities, as well as promote business development and job creation," says Mayor Michael Hancock. "Through this community vision, we will have a solid framework in place to help guide public and private resources to build a stronger, more resilient Denver."

In developing the food vision plan, the city held 11 community listening sessions and 11 focus groups with food businesses that generated nearly 5,000 comments. The city also is seeking feedback and hosting two hearings on Jan. 12, one at Mile High United Way from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m and another at the Commons on Champa from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. People can also comment on the draft via an online survey. People can also email their questions and comments to DenverFoodPlan@denvergov.org.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

New grant will help 350 people in Denver advance in retail careers

Thanks to a new $422,652 grant, 350 people in Denver will have a chance to get better employment opportunities in the retail industry. The city will use the grant to focus on empowering disadvantaged adults and working-age youth through a variety of job training programs.

"The majority of program funds will go toward getting individuals gainfully employed," says Denver Office of Economic Development Spokesperson Derek Woodbury. "We are also targeting efforts to assist employed retail workers with moving up the career ladder." We do not have a targeted figure for these advancements.

Denver's Workforce Development Board will use the funding to create a retail sector partnership with employers and education providers to offer people a chance to advance their careers through training experiences. Training will include formal education, certification training, on-the-job training and paid work experiences. The grant will also promote advancement opportunities in the retail sector.

While the grant is a standalone grant, it's not all the city is doing to help encourage workforce development. "We do expect to leverage other federal workforce development funding streams in order to co-enroll participants in other workforce services training and employment programs," Woodbury explains.

The grant was awarded part of a larger, $10.9 million award to The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership from the Walmart Foundation aimed at creating new models of career services in the retail sector. Of the 10 cities to which the partnership awarded grants, Denver won the most.

While the Walmart Foundation is funding the grant, Denver won't be providing any direct services to the company. "The grant agreement prohibits our office from providing workforce services to Walmart or any of its subsidiaries under this funding," Woodbury says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Gaming bar Board Game Republic opens in Baker

Denver's Board Game Republic is holding its grand opening this weekend. The pub and cafe boasts more than 600 board games for those who aren't just satisfied with the average game of Sorry! anymore and want to up their Parcheesi game instead.

"Board games are perfect at bringing people together and creating interaction," says founder Keith Meyers. Meyers is well-suited as game master and curator for the cafe. He's worked for Hasbro, The Game Keeper and IELLO, among others, and  has invented dozens of games and taught classes in game design.

The pub will host its grand opening on Aug. 20-21. The opening will include local gaming celebrities and publishers.

"We'll have hourly drawings for free stuff -- games, promos, toys and just plain goofy things," Meyers says. "We'll have pop-up tournaments for prizes, scattered over the weekend." He adds that events will culminate in a grand prize drawing of $250 worth of board in games, sponsored by Time Well Spent games and $250 in smaller prizes.

Like newer room escape adventures, Board Game Republic is designed to embrace Denver's gaming culture without sticking them in front of a computer screen. The collection of games ranges from Monopoly and Clue to modern titles including Settlers of Catan or Pandemic, and party games such as Telestrations and Codenames.

Visitors to the unique pub on 1st Avenue and Santa Fe Drive can pay $5 to receive all-day access to collection of games. Staff is on hand to serve food and introduce visitors to new games.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Pop-up beer garden coming to Skyline Park

Beginning Aug. 19, Skyline Park will host a pop-up beer garden showcasing Colorado craft beers. Adults will be able to enjoy a beer at a 40,000-square-foot area at Skyline Park and relax in the shade under a tent or in open-air seating. The beer garden is part of the city's effort to encourage activities in Denver's public spaces like the Meet in the Street events.

"The Downtown Denver Partnership is excited to bring forward a new and unique program to encourage residents, employees and visitors to gather in Downtown Denver in one of our most vibrant parks," says John Desmond, executive vice president of downtown environment for the Downtown Denver Partnership. "The Skyline Beer Garden builds on several initiatives to bring diverse and attractive programming to Skyline Park and support long-term strategies to create a premier outdoor downtown that contributes to an economically thriving center city."

The family-friendly beer garden will feature 12 beers on tap and serve food from the Lowry Beer Garden. Oktoberfest-style tables will seat more than 350, and the operation will create 15 to 20 jobs while open through Sept. 15. 

The menu will include gourmet brats, burgers, salads, pretzels and dipping sauces. The garden also will host music on Fridays and Saturdays and the garden will include ping pong, a nine-hole miniature golf course and cornhole. 

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Follow Your Fruits & Veggies Journey, a monthlong celebration of local foods, kicks off

This August, the Colorado Department of Agriculture and its Colorado Proud program are celebrating local food and food manufacturers with the Follow Your Fruits & Veggies Journey. The celebration launched Aug. 1 on Colorado's 140th birthday as part of Gov. Hickenlooper's Colorado Proud month, with a pop-up picnic at the History Colorado Center.

More than ever, Colorado restaurants are sourcing locally grown produce, and manufacturers are using local ingredients ranging from honey to fruits to vegetables to grains. Supermarkets carry local cheeses, spreads, sodas, tinctures and other products.

"The event is a great way to recognize Colorado's past and celebrate the people that continue to make the state a great place to work and live," says Wendy White, marketing specialist for the Colorado Department of Agriculture. "We are excited to host a pop-up picnic on Colorado Day as it allows us to educate consumers on the benefits of buying and eating local produce while celebrating the farmers, ranchers and food producers that contribute to the vitality of the state."

While Denver is often regarded as an IT mecca, it's worth remembering that the state's economy is largely an agricultural one. In fact, the agriculture department notes that it's one of the state's top three industries with more than 173,000 jobs and that it contributes $41 billion to the state's economy annually.

In all, the campaign is hosting 20 events -- with multiple events in Denver -- throughout the month. The events throughout the month will take place at stores, farmers markets and other venues, including events at Union Station, Fiddler's Green and Old South Pearl Street. Events will link the stages of locally grown produce and connect Coloradans to local farmers and educate consumers about local produce, like Palisade peaches, Rocky Ford melons and Olathe sweet corn.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

EatDenver, MSU Denver launch leadership incubator

EatDenver and Metropolitan State University of Denver have announced the Hospitality Leadership Incubator, a new boot camp to help restaurateurs boost their knowledge and skills in hospitality. The new program brings together educators and local hospitality leaders from companies like Chipotle and Restaurant Solutions.

"Because of the sheer volume of new restaurants, there's a greater need for a skilled workers who, ideally, will learn and grow alongside a restaurant or bar," explains Adam Schlegel, executive director of EatDenver, a local non­profit consisting of locally owned restaurants. "This program helps to address this need and will surely be a huge benefit to the city's restaurateurs."

 "We are testing the waters with this first session but due to the interest and registrations already, we anticipate continuing to offer and grow the Hospitality Leadership Incubator," Schlegel says. Indeed, in under a month the first boot camp is full. "Ideally, the Hospitality Leadership Incubator will be offered on an ongoing basis -- with even more courses added to the curriculum."

The first boot camp will include five courses starting July 12. Schlegel says the courses are aimed at preparing staff to advance within the hospitality industry. Each of the five sessions will last for two hours and will include hands-­on experience and coursework.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

March shapes up as Denver's other big beer month

Almost half a year from the other big beer event in Denver, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), March is shaping up to be just as important for Colorado's fermentation revolution.

Colorado Craft Beer Week begins with the one-of-a-kind Collaboration Fest on March 19 and pours through March 30 at Strange Craft Beer Co. with an auction and IPA Throwdown. In fact, for the purposes of innovative brewing and moving the local industry forward, March might even be more important to craft brewing than GABF.

Collaboration Fest, being held for the second year at the Broncos' stadium at Mile High, is probably the most innovative of all the events since it invites breweries from across the world to come together and create what are mostly one-off beers with their fellow brewers. In fact, last year it was dubbed "America's most creative beer fest" by Food & Wine Magazine.

It's an important event for the industry because it encourages brewers from all over the world to exchange notes and practices -- and of course plenty of beer. "We can guarantee one thing: the beers of Collaboration Fest are sure to be some of the most unique, delicious and limited offerings you've ever tasted," say festival organizers, which include the Colorado Brewers Guild, Visit Denver and Two Parts. "Per festival guidelines, one brewery must based in Colorado and a member of the Colorado Brewers Guild, while the collaborating partners could be located next door, across the state, across the country or even overseas."  

This year the fest will boast more than 85 projects from 149 brewers. While most participating breweries are in the U.S., the fest also is bringing international attention with five international breweries participating this year.

Beyond that Denver will serve as a hub for Craft Beer Week, with events happening throughout the state. While many are at breweries, others have unique locations -- like the Mighty Beer Run in Platt Park on March 26.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

The Local Coffeehouse launches indie coffeeshop app and digital directory

Ever been stuck in a new city or neighborhood and need to find an espresso rapido? That's where The Local Coffeehouse, the Denver-founded national directory of coffeehouses, comes in. It's launching a new version of its site and mobile app.

The guide has more than 16,000 coffeeshops, cafes and coffee roasters across the U.S. Users can search for local coffeeshops via The Local Coffeehouse site or they can download it to their smart devices. With the app, users can input a city or town and state into their smart device and quickly find the closest place to get a cup of joe, latte or croissant.

You won't find Starbucks, Peet's, Seattle's Best or other national chains on The Local Coffeehouse: Although it will list businesses with up to 10 locations, it only covers locally owned independent businesses in the U.S. In addition, the shops must offer espresso drinks a primary beverage or they must be a small-batch roaster.

The Local Coffeehouse points to Specialty Coffee Association of America figures that show there are nearly 30,000 independent coffee retailers in the U.S. Many of them are involved in local events, providing a venue for community gatherings and are always conscious of how they can and do give back. Still, it's hard for small companies to compete with the coffee juggernauts. By focusing on the local companies, the resource gives them a chance to better compete with the chains.

The company gives coffeeshops and cafes free listings on its site and app. With that they get a map marker that geo-locates the shop on the map, a listing displaying information about the address, a brief description or story of their location and a link to their site.

"We highly encourage our retailers to share their personal story in order to really connect with people even before they walk through the door. This feature truly separates us from the rest," says Lisa McIntyre, the company's founder.

"In early 2016, we will be offering three levels of paid membership," McIntyre says. The company will also offer its tools to its a la carte members. Beyond the free features the company offers cafes and coffeehouses it offers push notes to users showing them what kind of foods or other offerings they have.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Santasexual -- or is it Hipster Claus? -- comes to RiNo

Yup, the hipsters took over the North Pole and gave everybody's favorite big ol' stocking stuffer a makeover with a trim waist, hipsterific scarf and lumbersexual beard and boots. Now he's coming to RiNo's The Source on Sat. Dec. 19 to take selfies with you and your loved ones, just in time for those last-second, ironic holiday cards.

The pics will be clicked by Jennifer Olson Photography at The Source, where, "A young attractive man you can call Chris . . . or Nick . . . will visit the artisan market hall to take photos with those who know that Santa is actually a well-groomed bearded man who rides a bike, drinks sour beer, grinds his own coffee beans, and grills only local grass-fed beef," the studio says. "He keeps his Arctic Circle address, but lives just down the street in RiNo, in a loft, of course, moonlighting as an engineer at a neighboring tech company. On Saturday, he will sport his favorite sharp non-trad tapered pants and tailored coat, a V neck, a scarf and his Red Wings boots, plus a selection of trendy red-accented hats."

'Tis the season of giving and you know RiNo's Hipster Santa believes in good causes. So in a millennial way visitors can help him give back. For every selfie taken with and posted to social media with the hashtag #RiNoHipsterSanta, The Source will donate $1 to Slow Food Denver, an in-house nonprofit that advocates for local food and farming policy.

So don ye now your gay apparel or favorite bad Christmas sweater and come down to The Source on Saturday between 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. to get photos with RiNo Hipster Santa. Brunch date with mistletoe mimosas, anyone?

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

goingto.do launches 2.0 integrating Uber transportation, beacon tech

So you're stuck in a city on a Tuesday night and don't know what's happening. That's where goingto.do comes in. It's an entertainment app built in Denver that connects users with local events from around the country by harnessing big data.

The free app designed for mobile devices has just launched its second version, bringing a new user interface, as well as a host of other information and features that take advantage of a smartphone's capabilities. The new features include Uber integration, iBeacon functionality, weather information, push notification capability and Canadian events.

"We are excited to announce the release of goingto.do version 2. We have worked quickly and strategically to offer our growing user base the most efficient and informative services yet," says co-founder Bryan Basset. The company launched in 2104, showing the speed of moving to the second version and its new important functionalities. "The Beacon capability will drive business and spontaneity among our users."

By taking advantage of a device's GPS capabilities the app begins to narrow interests down to a location. Adding a users' preferences further narrows that information down to their interests and location. It also offers directions on who to get to the event as well as coordinating Uber transportation.

The free app also allows beacon capability for businesses. This allows local businesses to provide location-based events, deals and promotions through the app's push notifications -- things like a flash sale at a retailer or a happy hour at a watering hole. The company says it's the only one to offer such a service for businesses.

Business owners can submit ideas for events on the app's event management screen, and leave it to goingto.do to help with the promoting and managing. The app is available for Android and iOS-equipped devices, including smartphones and tablets.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

DAM seeks input from local creatives for 2016 programming

On Nov. 20, the the Denver Art Museum (DAM) will host Meet Here: An Evening of Idea Brewing and Creative Criss-Cross." The meeting is intended to bring together creatives from various disciplines to help develop ideas for DAM's programs in 2016. The event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. The museum is welcoming all sorts of people in the creative community from chefs to dancers, crafters, musicians and artists.

The brainstorming session will help the museum plan out its Untitled Final Fridays, a series of events that the museum offers on the final Friday of every month except November and December. "This program offers a unique museum experience with unconventional art encounters, new insight into the DAM collections, artmaking activities and more," DAM explained in a release. "At each Untitled event, the museum highlights a specific theme with exhibition-related activities and community collaborations."

In addition to the Untitled series, attendees will also be able to give input and insight into museum residencies and outdoor installations. This year, museum officials are particularly focused on dance and it wants to have outdoor dance programs in summer 2016.

While the Nov. 20 session is designed to help the museum create relevant events tailored to its community, it already has some broad themes planned for each date. ere's a list of the date and proposed themes for each event:

  • Jan. 29: Family Matters  
  • Feb. 26: Homegrown
  • March 25: Risky Business
  • April 29: Show Down
  • May 27: Rising Sun
  • June 24: Power House
  • July 29: In-Sync
  • Aug. 26: Center Stage
  • Sep. 30: Stop Motion
  • Oct. 28: Glory Days

RSVP here.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Larimer Square hosting "Investing in Main Street" panel

Denver's iconic skyline might be full of tall buildings like Wells Fargo's "Cash Register," but its most famous block is likely its oldest: Larimer Square.

This year, during Denver Startup Week, businesses in the picturesque block are coming together to discuss how the square was preserved 50 years ago -- becoming Denver's first historic district -- as skyscrapers threatened to scrape the historic face off of Denver's downtown in a panel called "Investing in Main Street."

On Sept. 30 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at SpringHill Suites Denver Downtown at MSU Denver, a restaurateur-heavy panel of speakers, moderated by CBS4 Morning Anchor Britt Moreno, will discuss how entrepreneurs have launched businesses on Main Streets throughout the U.S. and how Larimer Square is a model of success for such entrepreneurialism. The event, aside from being part of Denver Startup Week, also is the final panel of Larimer Square's five-part speaker series called "Stories from the Square."

The panelists will include:

  • Jeff Hermanson: CEO and President, Larimer Associates
  • Troy Guard: Chef/Owner, TAG Restaurant Group
  • Chad McWhinney: CEO & Co-Founder, McWhinney
  • Beth Gruitch: General Manager/Proprietor, Crafted Concepts
  • Jennifer Jasinski, Executive Chef/Owner, Crafted Concepts
  • Jackson Lamb, MSU, Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Events

Beyond restaurateurs, who operate many of the businesses on Larimer Square's ground floor, developers will also discuss their role in investing in Main Street, USA. "Today, through the vision and commitment from civic-minded investors, locally-spawned retailers, chefs and restaurateurs, Main Street is emerging and is stronger than ever from a generational pattern of boom and bust," the organizers say.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

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