Colorado Enterprise Fund loans improve access to healthy food in Costilla County

Program totaling $2.4 million prompts visit from Congressman Scott Tipton

Last Thursday, Congressman Scott Tipton visited Fort Market, a grocery store in Costilla County, to discuss the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), a federal funding program that enables leader like Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) to better support food businesses through its Healthy Foods Fund loan program. This loan program was created to improve access to healthy foods, support local businesses, create jobs and revitalize communities. 

"I have long believed that the best solutions to the challenges facing our rural communities are born out of collaboration between public and private local, state and federal partners," Tipton says. "The success that the Colorado Enterprise Fund and Fort Market have been able to achieve demonstrates the value of this type of collaboration."

In Tipton's district, which includes Colorado's Western Slope and southern Colorado, CEF has provided 52 business loans totaling $1.8 million, resulting in 113 jobs either being created or retained. Four of those were HFFI loans.

In 2015, Fort Market was on the verge of closing its doors. The largest grocery in Costilla County, the market was struggling to maintain stock on its shelves due to a lagging customer base and high energy bills thanks to outdated equipment.

"Small food businesses like rural grocery stores face growing challenges, including accessing affordable capital," says Anne Misak, CEF's Healthy Food program manger. "CEF has been able to leverage our federal funding with private capital to create a dedicated loan fund to meet the unique needs of businesses like Fort Market. Through this fund we can provide support to business owners who need extra help both in terms of dollars and through our business  consulting service offered to borrowers. We're really making sure they're getting wht they need to be able to grow and be successful. The result is a healthier more vibrant community."

Together with the Colorado Fresh Food Financing Fund (CO4F), CEF provided two different loans that enabled Fort Market to replace the outdated equipment, as well as provide working capital to stock shelves for the summer tourist season and sustain it during slower winter months.

"Fort Market is one of the many great stories about local community partners working together to reduce both rural and urban food desserts in our country," says CEF's CEO Ceyl Prinster. "It is vitally important for all our congressional representatives to maintain an interest in locally owned businesses and understand the challenges they face in obtaining the resources they need to succeed. We're greatful to be a channel for HFFI funds to have a positive impact in local communities we serve in Colorado, and to collaborate with local partners like the Costilla county commissioners."


More than 29 million Americans live in urban neighborhoods or rural towns where healthy food is inaccessible, according to the USDA's Economic Research Service 2012 study. These same areas struggle with high unemployment rates and economic stagnation. To address these issues, the CDFI Fund created the HFFI, which includes tax credits, grants, and loans from sources like CEF. In 2012 and 2013, CEF received two rounds of funding from the HFFI program totaling $1.55 million. CEF leveraged these funds with a grant from the Colorado Fresh Food Financing Fund (C04F) and the national ReFresh partnership (part of the JP Morgan Chase PRO Neighborhoods initiative) to create a dedicated CEF Healthy Foods Fund Loan Program. These funds finance food production, small grocery retail, local food distribution, and innovative healthy food businesses throughout urban and rural parts of Colorado. CEF lends to all segments of the food system to improve access to fresh, healthy food for Colorado’s residents and to promote economic and health benefits for communities designated as “food deserts.”

(Click here for a map of areas lacking access to healthy food outlets.)

Since 2013, CEF has provided $2.4 million in HFFI funding to 44 small businesses, including Fort Market. Because of HFFI funding, more than 180 jobs have been either created or retained.


Founded in 1976, CEF provides loans up to $500,000 to finance small businesses and start-ups unable to obtain funding through traditional banks. With a mission to accelerate community prosperity by financing and supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, CEF has provided over $62 million in loans to more than 2,000 businesses to help create or retain over 17,000 jobs in the state. A nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), CEF is based in Denver with lending services available statewide.

Photo Credits – Top left image (L to R): Fort Market owner Gerald Tamada, Representative Scott Tipton and owner Emerald Tamada. Top right image (L to R): Representative Scott Tipton and Fort Market owner Gerald Tamada. Bottom left image: Produce at Fort Market grocery store in Fort Garland, CO. Bottom right image: Outside of Fort Market grocery store. All photos by Kim Marquez Photography. High resolution images available upon request. To view more photos, visit this link.    

Categories: Community News