Dean Hollenbeck's ideas and initiatives are not those of a man with a singular vision; the word "singular" can hardly ever be applied to anything Hollenbeck is involved in. Rarely do any of his statements begin with or include the word "I," he usually says "we" or "us." It's the team, the community, that is the modus operandi of this year's Visionary honoree for small business and economics Dean Hollenbeck, vice president of Colorado Northwestern Community College (CNCC)-Craig and chairman of the Craig Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee (EDC).
Many of the programs and initiatives Hollenbeck has put his considerable experience behind have benefited the community and economy of Craig, Moffat County and Northwest Colorado.
Through his work at CNCC and with the EDC, Hollenbeck has participated in several enterprises that have improved the business climate, the educational opportunities and infrastructure of the area.
The Hollenbeck family moved to Craig in the fall of 1998, when Hollenbeck was offered the job as vice president of CNCC.
"It was an opportunity for our family to get into a rural setting," he said. "Both Brenda and I grew up in small towns, towns smaller than Craig, and we wanted to raise our two daughters in a similar environment. This is a great community, and we're very happy here."
Hollenbeck's background is mostly rooted in agriculture. He has a bachelor's degree in agricultural education, a master's degree in agricultural administration and a doctorate degree in education administration. The combination of these degrees is what led Hollenbeck to CNCC, and to Craig.
Hollenbeck spent several years on the state staff of Colorado Community College and Occupational Educational System (CCCOES), the managing body of community colleges for Colorado. In 1987, Hollenbeck began serving as one of the two Agricultural Education Administrators for the state, then headed up the Vocational Student Organizations program until 1995, when he moved onto the executive team of CCCOES. In this role, Hollenbeck was in charge of the business and industry and economic initiative training in the community colleges of Colorado and worked in conjunction with then-governor Roy Romer's Economic Team and cabinet.
When the job opened at the CNCC Craig campus, Hollenbeck was a perfect fit with his background in agricultural and his work with CCCOES.
Hollenbeck stepped into a situation where much was already happening and where future plans were being created for the school and the community.
"The first thing on my plate was the redesigning of The Center of Craig. The process was somewhat started, but I had the blueprints covering my desk almost immediately. I helped shape the building so it could serve as classrooms and a community center and house the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) as the major tenant," Hollenbeck said. "That was a good partnership with the city, and I worked closely with Jim Ferree on that project.
"The SBDC is an important part of the development and future development of the community, and we're very proud of how the building turned out."
Two years ago, the SBCD was expanded to include a Business Assistance Center and a position as director was created. The job was filled by Fran Dibartolo, and now the center offers even more to benefit the community, Hollenbeck said.
Hollenbeck's influence at CNCC was clear from expanded class offerings to technological updates to the creation of the Business Development and Industry Training position.
"The college has been working very hard to expand our programs designing more and different programs of the mining industry, chemistry training concentrated on 'scrubber technology' for working with Tri-State, starting our Wildfire Education program and creating programs dealing with the outdoor industries," he said. "It has been a strong goal of CNCC since I've been here to be a good partner to the community, and to have to a lot offer the community."
The EDC was just getting started when Hollenbeck arrived in Craig. Within six months of beginning his work at CNCC, Hollenbeck became a member of the committee. When the chairmanship was vacated, Hollenbeck was asked to take over.
"The college needs to be a part of the economic development process," he said. "It's important for us to look at industry diversification and use the potential of Northwest Colorado to bring in the right kind of industries for our communities. The Yampa Valley will have growth, and we need to be in a position to take advantage of that, while being careful of the types of industry we bring in to preserve what's valuable to those who live here."
The EDC's Target Industry Analysis (TIA) is nearing completion and should be completed by early July. The analysis is a major piece of the planning for the future of Moffat County. It will help communities build a modern component into their local economies, making them stronger and more diverse, Hollenbeck said. It will also help guide the college into the future, because industries that look at this area will consider how a possible workforce would be trained. CNCC plans to be a serious resource for training and educating residents for employment in new industries.
"We have a tremendous community people believe in Northwest Colorado and Craig, and when you have that, it makes everybody's job easy, he said. "We are committed to offering the best services we can, and we very much want to partner with the community in any way we can. It feels very good to be a part of this community and its future."