|Monday, January 26, 2015|
|May: Itís common sense to maintain streets|
You wouldn’t buy a new $1,500 bike and leave it lying in your yard at the mercy of the elements. Nor would you expect to drive your car for 200,000 miles without maintaining and repairing it. This kind of behavior would be irresponsible, wasteful and — frankly —dumb.
Fort Collins residents have long applied that kind of common sense to their streets. Over 150 years, the community has grown and its street system has expanded accordingly. Now at 575 centerline miles of arterial, collector and residential streets, it’s by far the community’s largest public investment. To their credit, residents expect this investment to be properly maintained and have been willing to pay for it.
From years of experience, people around the country responsible for maintaining roads and streets learned that it was much more cost-effective to repair streets before they deteriorate too far. The city of Fort Collins Transportation Department developed a pavement condition index to guide their repair schedule. It determined that keeping streets at Level of Service B — in good condition — costs 6 to 8 times less than a complete rebuild.
To that end, the city spends approximately $15 million annually to repair nearly 70 centerline miles of streets. The money comes from several sources, with the two biggest being a quarter-cent street maintenance sales and use tax and revenue from the 2010 Keep Fort Collins Great sales and use tax. This willingness of voters to tax themselves to maintain streets goes back to the mid-1980s when they approved a quarter-cent tax under a capital program called Project RECAP.
The latest iteration was the Street Maintenance quarter-cent tax passed in 2006. It is due to expire on Dec. 31 unless renewed by voters.
The decision was made by the City Council last Tuesday to put renewal of the tax on the April ballot.
In the course of the conversation, there was an attempt to lower the voter-approved tax and replace it with a City Council-imposed transportation fee. From a government-centric perspective, having a fee sounds great because it means not having to ask voters to approve a tax.
Plus it’s more flexible. Where revenue from a voter-approved street maintenance tax would have to be used for repairing streets, a transportation fee could be used for all kinds of things based on the animating philosophy of a majority of council members. And based on the current nature of politics in Fort Collins, a council-adopted fee would likely be politicized to favor some groups while punishing others. Fortunately, a majority of the council did not go along with the voter bypass scheme.
Another reason a tax is better than a fee is because it’s also paid by visitors and tourists who use our streets. A fee, on the other hand, would shift the burden completely to Fort Collins homeowners and businesses.
Good for the council for letting voters decide and good for citizens for having the common sense to take care of their street system investment.
David May is president and CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Column originally published by The Fort Collins Coloradoan January 22, 2015
|Tuesday, January 20, 2015|
|Work to Fund I-25 Continues|
|On several occasions I’ve reported on the effort to secure funding to widen I-25. It’s not fancy, but go here for a blow by blow report on lobbying activities. It’s a report I submit routinely to the others working on the Fix North I-25 initiative.|
|Tuesday, January 13, 2015|
|The Wall Builders|
Last week I commented on the kerfuffle between a City Council Member and Woodward. The Coloradoan editorialized about the issue in this past Sunday’s paper and today’s issue has a soapbox and letter to the editor from residents taking the Council Member to task.
This week I want to continue on this topic but broaden it out. While the focus has been on how one elected official has been acting towards one company, this problem is bigger than both of them.
Fort Collins by almost any measure is a wonderful place. I don’t want to go all chamber of commerce on you, so I’ll leave it at that and spare you the details! (However, if you want to peruse some of the community’s rankings, you can find them here!)
That said, when the Council Member let his mask slip he did us all a favor by openly revealing to the public at-large his raw political ambitions and guiding philosophy. While this doesn’t fully capture it, a short description is that he and his fellow travelers are anti-business, anti-economy, anti-population growth and pro-accumulation of as much power as they can acquire.
Most residents are so focused on making a living and raising their families these political machinations never hit their radar screens. That is until there’s an overreach like when the City Council tried to take over the trash haulers a few years ago, when they tried to impose a fee on plastic bags and now when one of them is openly bullying a longstanding, beloved and important local employer.
Many businesses, on the other hand, have a different vantage point, especially those trying to build or expand. Sadly, the treatment directed towards Woodward is not all that unusual. The difference this time is that the company pushed back.
You might wonder “Why would an elected city official want to discourage local companies from growing and creating jobs?” The answer he (and his allies) gives is that he opposes ‘corporate welfare’ and he believes ‘growth should pay its own way.’
My theory is that it’s part of the larger wall building process to keep people out of Fort Collins. Never mind that most of the wall-builders moved here from other places! Here are six ways he / they go about building walls.
First, encircle the community with open lands and community separators. This has been popular with the public. It maintains the open character of a western community and provides close-in recreation opportunities and wildlife habitat. It isn’t free, however, and it does dramatically impact the cost of housing.
Second, create a firm growth management boundary (wall). As a community, it’s a declaration that we are going to forever remain a mid-sized city. Twelve, thirteen years ago several council members and community activists declared that I-25 was a firm line that we would not cross. How has it worked out for us have Costco and Walmart in Timnath instead of land that should have been annexed into Fort Collins? Sometimes the wall builders trip up.
Third, build a wall of fees. Did you know that Fort Collins has the second highest fees on commercial development in the state? An example of how we have to work around that is the so-called $23M incentive package given to Woodward to expand in Fort Collins. No, no, no! City taxpayers are not giving money to Woodward. Most of that money is the waiver of fees that should have never been charged in the first place. Sticking with my wall analogy, the city government built a wall then had to take down several rows of bricks to allow a company that had been here for 3 generations to be able to stay. In essence, the Woodward package is a sort of rebate on an excessive overcharge.
Fourth, build a wall of regulations. Every study and plan adopted by the city government over the last 25 years has been used by the Council Member and his allies to add layer upon layer of new requirements and restrictions on construction, development and business.
Fifth, related to the item above is the development review process. It routinely takes 18 months for projects to get through the maze of city government. A key strategy is to make the process slow and expensive.
Finally, the sixth wall is the no-jobs wall. This is the one being used by the Council Member relative to Woodward. The thinking is something like this: If only those rascally companies wouldn’t expand and create jobs, we could keep people from moving here. While he / his allies can get away with some of the other more hidden wall building strategies, this one is a political minefield. The public won’t put up with someone openly playing politics with their jobs and the health of the local economy.
None of above is meant to be negative. On the contrary, I’m quite bullish on future of Fort Collins. It’s just that the Council Member’s ham-handed treatment of the community’s leading company was a teachable moment. It’s a chance to put in context a story of the day with the underlying political agenda that’s afoot.
|Tuesday, January 6, 2015|
|May: Stop petty harassment of Woodward|
Are you feeling fully secure about your household income? For those of you working, do you feel secure about your job?
Are you working at a job that matches your education and skill level? Do you make the income you think you deserve?
As investment advisers like to say, results may vary, but for the majority of people in Fort Collins the answers to these questions are no, no, no and no.
Do you believe city government should encourage companies to leave town or cut back on their workforces? Do you think city officials should act in a manner that discourages companies from opening or expanding in Fort Collins?
In your opinion, is it in the best interests of the community for city government officials to harass and provoke the city's key employers?
The answers for most of us would be no, no and no. Of course not.
Do you believe the community should honor and celebrate its founders? Do you think city government should eventually fix a street that it has targeted for improvements for 25 years? Most of us would probably answer yes and yes.
I'm asking these questions to put in perspective the odd harassment campaign of a City Council member and his political handler against a Fort Collins company, Woodward.
The council member — who I won't name for this publicity-grabbing move — regularly rails against supporting companies including Woodward, opposes naming the 30 acres that Woodward donated to the citizens of Fort Collins after the pioneer family that first settled the land, and opposes making improvements to the street north of the Woodward property.
Regarding Lincoln Avenue, improvements — including adding sidewalks — have been on the city's streets master plan since 1989. That's 24 years before Woodward decided to locate nearby.
He finally provoked the company into sending a letter calling him out for his behavior. In my 35-year chamber career, this is the first time I've seen a company harassed to this level and feel compelled to push back.
This kind of treatment sends the wrong message to existing primary employers and others interested in locating to the area. Maybe that's the councilman's goal.
If that's the case, it runs against the grain of public opinion. An improving economy notwithstanding, most Fort Collins citizens believe city government should encourage and support the creation of good-paying jobs.
When asked about economic development strategies, 92 percent of Fort Collins residents support community leaders working to retain existing employers and 67 percent support waiving some taxes and development fees for Fort Collins companies trying to expand.
When residents were asked, "Would you say that retaining Woodward … a company headquartered here in Fort Collins, should be a top priority for the City of Fort Collins," 85 percent said is should be a priority. Fifty-four percent gave it top priority.
Final question: Is playing politics with the residents' jobs and the economic health of the community ever a good idea?
David May is president and CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce. Reach him at email@example.com.
This column was originally published with The Fort Collins Coloradoan January 2, 2015.
|Tuesday, December 30, 2014|
|2014 Chamber Accomplishments|
As we put a wrap on another great year, thank you for your support as members. We’ll put together a more complete annual report to you after the first of the year, but here are a few top of the mind things that the Chamber did in 2014:
- Co-founded and led a new group called the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance. So far the Alliance has helped secure $35M for funding to help widen I-25
- Local economy is growing rapidly
- Hosted world-renowned author Jim Collins (Built to Last: Good to Great; Great by Choice) on April 16 for 1,050 people at the Lincoln Center
- Grew membership by net +63
- Led the successful campaign to renew the county jail tax that is critical for public safety
- Had the most successful fund raising campaign in Chamber’s history. Our volunteers raised $601,000 in 10 weeks
- Supported activities to commemorate Fort Collins’ 150thAnniversary including supporting publication of community book
- Another clean audit
- Re-grew post-Great Recession revenues to highest in Chamber’s history
Happy New Year!
|Tuesday, December 23, 2014|
|The Seasonal Buzz|
Christmas is two days away and the seasonal buzz is at a fevered pitch. Just yesterday I had breakfast in downtown Fort Collins with a friend at the Silver Grill. When we left at 9:00 customers were lined up waiting for a table. Over the noon hour I was back in Old Town and parking places were hard to find. On Saturday the College and Harmony corridors had lots of traffic and the stores my wife and I went into were busy.
Of course, busy-ness doesn’t automatically translate into good business, but it all looked promising. There was a general sense of prosperity and contentment.
The slow economic recovery from the deepest recession since the Great Depression is picking up steam. If there is a silver lining to hard economic times it is a sharper appreciation when things are going well. The spring is more glorious after a long and bitterly cold winter, right?
Hopefully that is the case for you, your business and your family, that things are looking up. At the Chamber we appreciate you being part of our community and our business community.
Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas!
|Monday, December 15, 2014|
By my recollection, this is letter #54 that I've sent over the years!
In all that time we’ve only met once. Do you remember? You were stacking gifts against the back door since our house didn’t have a chimney. After having to climb down from the roof, your low-grade cursing – you called it ‘murmuring’ – woke me up. When you asked to use the bathroom I escorted you to our outhouse whereupon your ‘murmuring’ increased! There’s nothing quite like plopping your rosy bottom down on a frosty outhouse seat, right? A little taste of the North Pole right there in wintry Iowa!
Listen, I know you’re crazy busy so enough about our good old days together. Here’s my wish list for this year.
- First, peace on Earth. I was going to ask for peace and friendship between the CSU stadium friends and foes, but I thought I’d start small and work my way up from there! Maybe next year.
- Add a third lane to I-25 each way between Highway 14 in Fort Collins and Highway 66 in Longmont. CDOT says it will take until 2070, but you can get it done faster than that with one sleigh-full of cement per year.
- A great City Council in April. Without one, community progress stalls.
- Coal in the stockings of the community curmudgeons who wrongly claim that businesses don’t pay their own way. Making matters worse these folks then try use local government to extract money from companies for their various agendas. It’s kind of mob-esque.
- A job for everybody that wants one, and let’s create even better ones to a match the education and skills of our population. After all, we rank 7th in the nation in under-employment.
- Fix Lincoln Avenue between downtown and Lemay. It has been in the City’s plans to do this since the late 1990s. Now with the success of the local breweries and companies like In-Situ and Woodward along that corridor, it makes it even more important.
- A great water plan for Colorado. The state lets too much of the water to which it is entitled flow out of Colorado.
- A Las Vegas Bowl victory for the underdog CSU Rams football team over the PAC 12 Utah Utes.
- Cram a new athletic director, new head football coach and an invitation to join the Big 12 Conference under CSU President Tony Frank’s tree.
- Two 6 foot 5 All-American hitters for CSU Women’s Volleyball Coach Tom Hilbert.
- Lots of profits to area companies. When profitable, they’re hiring people, paying more taxes, providing more goods and services and supporting more community non-profits.
- Peace and safety for the peacekeepers and their loved ones. The men and women in our armed forces are there by choice, but it comes with its own share of risks and hardships.
- Happiness and success for all of our fair citizens.
That’s it, Santa! Travel safe, and here’s wishing you indoor plumbing along the way!
|Tuesday, December 9, 2014|
|Fighting Against Voodoo Economics|
Last Saturday the Fort Collins City Council had a planning retreat. One of the items on the Council’s agenda was discussion about an update to the City’s economic strategy. Let me go to the bottom line first: based on that discussion, it is and will continue to be the official policy of the City of Fort Collins to support a strong local economy through the retention and attraction of primary employers.
Behind that good news, however, is a more nuanced conversation. There are actually a couple of Council Members who don’t want the city government to encourage private sector job creation, especially primary jobs.
Their colleagues on the Council were having none of it. Starting with Mayor Weitkunat, Council Members Gino Campana and Wade Troxell and Mayor Pro Tem Gerry Horak schooled them on the importance of primary employers.
They reminded all of us how important primary employers are to the local economy. The jobs (and the big payrolls) they create allow the retail and service sectors to thrive. Fostering and protecting community income streams – the flow of outside money into Fort Collins – should be the key objective of the City’s economic health strategy. Buzz phrases like ‘steady state economies’ were thrown around as an alternative to focusing on primary employers, but most of the Council understands that it’s a form of voodoo economics with no grounding in the real world.
The short definition is that primary employers are companies that sell most of their product or service outside the local market and bring income into the area. Jobs at these firms on average pay significantly better than those at retail or service companies. And, remember that these companies don’t just hire engineers; they also need truck drivers, receptionists, shipping clerks, janitors, etc.
One positive from this discussion was a reminder that we can’t take for granted that people understand the importance of primary employers. That’s one reason the Chamber created FortCollinsWorks.com. If you’re interested in the topic of economic prosperity and primary employers, I’d suggest you visit the site and look at:
- Page 4 of the document titled “2012 Primary Employment Update.” The report was prepared by Dr. Martin Shields. On Page 4 you’ll find a definition of primary employers and why they are important.
- “Why Focus on Primary Jobs.” This short document explains the economic value of primary or base jobs.
In closing, hats off to the Mayor and Council Members for keeping the City focused on supporting a strong local economy.
|Tuesday, December 2, 2014|
|Moving Fort Collins Forward! Campaign a Huge Success|
The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce’s recently completed Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign was a huge success. How big? Well, against a goal of $550,000 Chamber volunteers raised $600,912! Additionally, against a goal of 100 new members by the end of the year, we are currently at 96.
As a reminder, this annual campaign is used to raise about half of the money the Chamber will need in the following year. The money goes toward programs, events and key strategic initiatives. An example of the latter is the Fix North I-25 Initiative. The goal there was to raise $100,000 for lobbying for the money to widen I-25 to 3 lanes each way between Highway 14 and Highway 66 just north of Longmont. About $70,000 has been raised so far with other pledges still being considered.
Moving Fort Collins Forward! is driven by volunteers and we had an amazing group leading the campaign. Chamber Chair Chris Otto, partner in the audit, tax and consulting firm EKS&H, set the tone, and we had two strong and effective Campaign Co Chairs, Yvonne Myers, Columbine Health Systems and John Carroll, Ed Carroll Motor Company.
Their work as campaign leaders was backed up by a group of Vice Chairs that lent their names and support including Eric Adams of Wells Fargo, Mark Driscoll of First National Bank, David Everitt of Everitt Companies, Dr. Tony Frank of Colorado State University, Kathy Jack-Romero of The Fort Collins Coloradoan, Lucia Liley of Liley, Rogers & Martell, Curt Richardson of OtterBox, Rick Sutton of Banner Health, Kevin Unger of University of Colorado Health and Bob Wilson of Columbine Health Systems.
What really makes the campaign work are the team captains, and we had some great ones including:
- Auto Dealers (Dellenbach Motors, Ed Carroll Motors, Tynan’s)- John Carroll
- Bank of Colorado - Karis Harmon and Kayla Myers
- Banner Health/Kaiser Permanente - Dawn Paepke and Dan Dennie
- Brinkman Partners - Pete Meyer
- Columbine Health Systems - Yvonne Myers
- Elevations Real Estate - Chris Hardy
- First National Bank - Ken DeSimone
- Flood & Peterson - Brett Kemp
- Food Service of America – Greg Yancey
- Guaranty Bank - Rich Pearson and David Fritzler
- Home State Bank - Debra Kelly
- Red Carpet - Bethany Cox and Craig Vollmer
- UC Health - Amy Kolczak
- Wells Fargo - Eric Adams and Kevin McDonald
And, of course, I need to mention the top individual producers and teams, right!? Altogether there were 70+ volunteers involved in the campaign, and the top individual producers were:
- Ninth Place Individual: Ken DeSimone, First National Bank
- Eighth Place Individual: Pete Meyer, Brinkman Partners
- Seventh Place Individual: Gina DiGiallonardo, Columbine Health Systems
- Sixth Place Individual: Kim Martin, FMS Bank
- Fifth Place Individual: Brett Kemp, Flood & Peterson
- Fourth Place Individual: Amy Kolczak, University of Colorado Health
- Third Place Individual: Dawn Paepke, Kaiser Permanente
- Second Place Individual: John Carroll, Ed Carroll Motor Company
- Top Producer, 2014: Yvonne Myers, Columbine Health Systems
All of the teams were impressive, but the top four producers were:
- Fourth Place Team: Chamber Red Carpet Committee
- Third Place Team: Kaiser Permanente/Banner Health
- Second Place Team: Auto Dealers Team (Dellenbach Motors, Ed Carroll Motors, Tynan’s)
- Top Producing Team, 2014: Columbine Health Systems
To a person, the Chamber staff all supported the campaign, but a special ‘thank you’ to Kim Medina. She is the Chamber’s Director of Membership and is the Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign manager. She’s the glue that holds the whole thing together.
And last but not least, a big thanks to all of you. Over 400 companies and individuals made investments during the campaign. Because of all of you, the Chamber is poised for an impactful 2015. Because of you, the Chamber just completed the most successful fund raising campaign in its history.
|Tuesday, November 18, 2014|
|Market Your Company Using Chamber Programs|
The Chamber’s annual Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign is in its final days. If you’re interested in sponsoring a program, event or initiative, there’s still time. Give Kim Medina on our team a call at 482-3751 x 104, and she’ll have one of our teams contact you. You can learn more about our key initiatives here (including our work to get I-25 widened) and sponsorship opportunities here.
As part of the campaign, we are also trying to grow our membership. We are closing in on our goal, so if you know of someone who should be a member put in a good word on our behalf and call Joe Anderson on our team at 482-3751 x 100. Joe will give them a call to get them enrolled.
|Tuesday, November 11, 2014|
|Tax Measure of Pet Projects?|
In the past I have written about the long tradition in Fort Collins of citizens voting to tax themselves for public infrastructure improvements. Since 1973 city leaders have brought forward a series of proposed capital improvements for voter consideration. Many of the significant public infrastructure additions and improvements have come from these tax measures.
The last one was passed November 1, 2005. Popularly known as “Building on Basics” – BOB for short – the measure was an extension of an existing 0.25% sales and use tax until December 31, 2015. The revenues have been used for such things as intersection improvements and traffic signals (including Harmony/College), Timberline Road - Drake Road to Prospect Road, Lincoln Center renovation and cultural facilities plan, park upgrades and enhancements, Fort Collins Senior Center improvements and the Fort Collins Museum/Discovery Science Center joint facility.
With the tax due to expire, the City staff and Council are working on a new list. So far it has been…underwhelming?
The list looks more like a bureaucratic wish-list of pet projects than it does aspirational projects that address the most important community issues. For example, one of the biggest community problems is the train running through town. As discussed recently in the Chamber’s Local Legislative Affairs Committee, instead of cutting off cross streets (an idea that is being considered by the City) and adding crossing arms, isn’t it time to seriously consider grade separated crossings (streets over or under the railroad tracks)? And speaking of mobility, notice how light this list is in that regard. There are significant choke points in town that are not included.
The Council will be taking this list up again on December 9. If you have opinions about what should be included or dropped from the list, the time in now to weigh-in. You can find Council contact information here.
|Tuesday, October 28, 2014|
|Election April 2015|
Are you tired of the election season sound and fury? I’m sure all of us are at this point, Democrat, Unaffiliated, Republican or other. At least in that we can all find common ground!
It’s mildly cruel then for me to start talking about the NEXT election when we aren’t done with the current one. However, City Council elections are rapidly approaching, only 5 months away.
Most of us are justifiably proud of our community, and by extension, our local government. The occasional overreach notwithstanding – can you say ‘bag fee,’ for example? – the City of Fort Collins is effective, competent and well-run.
However, it is big and powerful and does attract its share of do-gooders who want to use all that power to bend and shape the community into their vision of utopia. This big government activism often conflicts with the leave-me-alone independence of most business people. As a person running a business in our fair community, you already know how many ways City Hall inserts itself into your affairs – sign code, parking regulations, landscaping requirements, fees, fees and more fees, land use codes, building codes, fire codes, street projects, utility projects, zoning restrictions, etc, etc, etc.
While the interests of business and city government generally line up well most of the time, there is a class of folks that really don’t like business. They see you as either a piggy bank to pay for all their pet projects or as the enemy. Harsh? Not really. It’s a perspective earned from watching local politics for many years.
It is in the business community’s enlightened self-interest to pay attention to City Hall, especially who is serving on your City Council.
The current Council is finely balanced on a 3-1-3 knife edge. Three people routinely vote and speak against business and economic development, three routinely do the opposite and the final person is the swing vote. On the whole, the arrangement works pretty well for the community.
That could change in April and for the worse when four of the seven City Council seats will be up for election.
The four seats include Mayor, District 2 (east-central Fort Collins) where the incumbent is term-limited, District 4 (southwest Fort Collins) where the incumbent is term-limited and District 6 (northwest Fort Collins).
Five months out, a couple of the incumbents haven’t indicated what they plan to do. The key election will be District 2, so, if you know of anyone who would make a great City Council member, encourage them to look into running.
Here’s the link to a map with the City Council district boundaries. You can even type in an address to determine which district you’re in.
April’s election will be an important one for the community. We can either slam on the brakes or maintain our momentum. The caliber of the City Council will largely determine which.
|Tuesday, October 21, 2014|
|Keep Larimer County Safe - Yes on 1B|
You probably just received your mail-in ballot for this fall's election. I want to make a pitch for one measure in particular, Item 1B.
When asked about 'quality of life,' most of us cite great schools or bike trails or open space, but is there any more important to your quality of life than your safety?
Item 1B is the continuation of an existing tax to support the operations of the Larimer County jail system. Not sexy, not exciting, but very important.
To learn more about Item 1B, here are a couple of resources:
|Tuesday, October 7, 2014|
|CSU Stadium, Moving Fort Collins Forward, New Members|
It's a beautiful fall in Northern Colorado. As I write this, it's a near perfect 71 degrees and sunny with the leaves in their full glory.
As you know by now, the Colorado State University Board of Governors heard a report last week from CSU President Tony Frank about the status of fund raising for the proposed on-campus stadium. The Board approved Dr. Frank's recommendation to further study 4 options ranging from maintenance of the existing stadium to a public-private partnership to build the stadium on the campus. You can learn more at www.colostate.edu/stadium/. I am one of six people on the Community Leadership Committee that will provide Dr. Frank feedback on the 4 options. If you have opinions about the options, feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
# # #
The Chamber's Moving Fort Collins Forward!
campaign has been underway for 4 weeks. At this moment, it has generated $259,150 and 21 new members against goals of $550,000 and 100, respectively.
You can help several ways:
- Underwrite one of our top initiatives. These programs help us effectively represent business with government including lobbying to secure the money to widen I-25 to 3 lanes each way between Highway 14 (Mulberry) in Fort Collins to Highway 66 just north of Longmont. Learn more about those initiatives here.
- Sponsor a Chamber program or event. These are great ways to market your company while supporting worthwhile programs. Golf tournament, annual dinner, Leadership Fort Collins, Fridays at the Chamber, Small Business of the Year Luncheon, and helping us finally pay off our 42-year old mortgage are a few examples. Find the list of programs here.
- Recruit or refer someone for membership. We are climbing back after the so-called Great Recession but still haven't reached our pre-recession membership number. We can get close by recruiting 100 new members during this campaign. Check the online membership directory to see if they are members or contact Joe Anderson (email@example.com) and he'll check for you. Other links you can send to prospective members include Join Online, Accomplishments and Goals, "Grow Your Business With Us" and Membership booklet.
Thanks for your help! The campaign ends on November 20.
|Tuesday, September 30, 2014|
|Potpourri of Topics|
A lot of things are happening in our area. Rather than restricting myself to one topic this week, here are some of the things on my mind.
- How about those Rams?! What a fun game on Saturday with the Colorado State University football team traveling to Boston and beating favored Boston College 24-21. Unlike some of my "Xs" and "Os" friends that love to dissect all of the plays, what I find fascinating is the mental toughness that Coach Jim McElwain is teaching his players. CSU's victory over Washington State in December's New Mexico Bowl, the first game of the season against University of Colorado and now the Boston College win are all attributable to resilience. They prepare right, they don't make excuses and they don't hang their heads. Those are pretty good life lessons, wouldn't you agree?
- Speaking of CSU athletics, CSU President Tony Frank's announcement last week that the university had not met the $110M fund raising goal for the proposed on-campus football / multipurpose stadium was interesting on several levels. Securing $50M in private sector pledges is astonishing. That is a remarkable statement of support. But, of course, $50M isn't $110M, so opponents of the stadium want to call it a failure, end of discussion. While some leaders might have agreed with that just to make the issue go away, Dr. Frank's approach of considering a range of options was the appropriate response. What an interesting dilemma he needs to sort through: lots of financial support but not enough to proceed as envisioned; an aging existing stadium with high maintenance and repair costs but no outside funding; diminishing state financial support of the university but a chance to use a reinvigorated athletics program to help brand the university to attract students and alumni support. As the leader of the institution, he has a duty to put the university in a position to be successful over the long-term. It will be an interested couple of months.
- Speaking of dilemmas, the City Council is in a tough spot relative to the bag fee. As you'll recall, this summer, the Council passed an ordinance mandating grocery stores and most area retailers collect a fee on all disposable bags. A group of citizens collected signatures to force the Council to overturn the ordinance or to place the measure on the ballot in a special election or at the next regularly scheduled election, which would be next April. Having this on the ballot next April while the Council is electing new Council members and asking voters to approve a tax for capital investments (streets, public buildings, etc.) would be a disaster.
- Elections are upon us and the Chamber is making recommendations on various ballot issues. You will find that highlighted elsewhere in this publication and on the Chamber website.
|Tuesday, September 16, 2014|
|Update on Widening of I-25|
I've periodically updated you on efforts to secure the $965M necessary to widen I-25 from Highway 14 (Mulberry Road in Fort Collins) to Highway 66 just north of Longmont to 3 lanes each way.
The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce is working on this project with the Greeley and Loveland Chambers through the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance. We have created an initiative called the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance.
This is a long-term project in a resource-constrained environment. It will take consistent, persistent lobbying effort to patch together various funding sources.
Short-term goals of the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance include:
- Get the Alliance fully-operational – leaders in place, funding set
- Convince the 13-member government coalition (I-25 Coalition) to reach agreement that keeps $35M of designated state funding in Northern Colorado on the portion of the interstate that needs widened
- Support CDOT if it applies for federal Presidential Challenge and Resilience and Recovery grants
- Protect SB-228 transportation funding during 2015 Legislative Session
- Determine whether federal funding is available through freight corridor or high priority corridor designations
- Convince CDOT to make an operational change to move trucks into the right-hand lane of southbound I-25 on the Berthoud Hill
Here's the direct lobbying the Fix North I-25 Alliance has done so far this year:
- Planning to attend board meeting of Colorado High Performance Transportation Enterprise (Sept 17)
- Contacted the 13 local governments in group called I-25 Coalition to press them to develop united plan for North I-25 expansion (Sept 5)
- Met with Governor John Hickenlooper and briefed him on situation on North I-25 (Aug 28)
- Met with CDOT Director Don Hunt to press him to support widening of North I-25(Aug 28)
- Briefed U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (Aug 7)
- Lobbied U.S. Congressman Cory Gardner (Aug 6)
- Met with CDOT Region 4 officials including Commissioner Kathy Gilliland and CDOT Director Johnny Olson (July 31)
- Met with Gubernatorial Candidate Bob Beauprez (July 17)
- Testified to U.S. Congressman Bill Shuster, Chair of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (July 1)
- Met with Former CDOT Director Tom Norton for background information on highway funding (June 11)
- Lobbied U.S. Congressman Jared Polis (spring) who declared widening of I-25 the top transportation project in his district
- Attended monthly meetings of government I-25 Coalition (13 county and local governments that touch North I-25)
We are raising money for our lobbying effort. If you're interested in helping out, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970 482-3751 x 102.
|Tuesday, September 9, 2014|
|Fix I-25, Good-Paying Jobs, Stand Up for Biz|
|At its most fundamental, your chamber of commerce is a tool for you to 1) market your company, and 2) affect issues that impact the local economy.|
To those broad ends, the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce annually conducts the Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign. The number goals for this year's campaign are 100 new members and $550,000 of financial support.
More specifically, there are 21 programs up for sponsorship in this year's campaign. Many of them great avenues for marketing your company. You can find information about them here.
Then there are three big initiatives focused on impacting the local economy. The first is the Fix North I-25 Initiative. I-25 is a mess and is getting rapidly worse. It will take a big, sustained lobbying effort to secure the $965M necessary to widen the interstate to three lanes between Highway 14 and Highway 66. Learn more here.
The second big initiative is Strong Economy Initiative. The key program here is the Fort Collins Works program. While it's great to be Northern Colorado and especially Fort Collins, we still rank 7th in the nation in under-employment. Even so, some politicians are calling for less support of economic development. Learn more here.
The third big initiative is the Stand Up for Business Initiative. The quality of government matters, as does the quality of elected officials making decisions. This initiative is about keeping a strong lobbying and political program in place to represent the business perspective. Learn more here.
The final thing I wanted to mention is re-growing the Chamber's membership base. The Great Recession hurt all membership-based associations. The Chamber has replaced many of the lost memberships but we'd like to re-grow the membership to over 1200 members. We're at 1087 today and the campaign goal of 100 gets us close. If you know of someone who should be a member, send them here or have them contact Joe Anderson on our team at email@example.com or at (970) 482-3746.
|Tuesday, August 26, 2014|
|Bag Fee Nonsense|
|The City Council, after a tortured, convoluted discussion last week, passed an ordinance mandating that you charge your customers for plastic bags.|
It is an example of bad policy and horrible governance.
The stated reason for this heavy-handed policy is that plastic bags are bad for the environment. Specifically, we're told that our precious landfill space is being filled up with disposable bags. But stop and think about that for a minute. How much space does a wadded up plastic grocery bag really take? I'm guessing the millions of grocery bags in question could be actually be compressed into the modest 2,350 cubic foot office I'm now sitting in. For a multi-use product that provides so much convenience to consumers that is a pretty small price to pay.
No, the real reason you will need to charge your customers 5 cents for a plastic bag starting next April is social engineering. We're the lab rats in a social conditioning exercise. Lest you think I'm off my nut and going anti-government conspiracy theorist on you, a City official actually admitted this before the Economic Advisory Commission earlier this month. In essence she said, if we can get you to do this, we can get you to do other things.
Got that? Local government is imposing itself between you and your customer to get the citizenry learned-up proper for the next thing they're scheming up in the bowels of city hall.
Compounding bad policy was a bad decision-making process. The ordinance that Council adopted was not vetted and discussed by the public, as the Coloradoan's Erin Stephenson explains here. She calls it a 'bait and switch.'
To learn more about the ordinance, go here.
The people voting for this legislation were Bob Overbeck, Lisa Poppaw, Gino Campana, Ross Cunniff, and Gerry Horak.
It's hard to say which is more irritating: the unnecessary law or the way in which it was imposed.
|Wednesday, August 20, 2014|
|PSD On Right Path|
|This past weekend the Coloradoan ran a front page story about the Poudre School District's Superintendent Sandra Smyser and how she's doing one year into her tenure. On behalf of the Chamber, I was interviewed for the story. You can find my answers here. The short version is that we think Dr. Smyser is a great addition to the community and that the school district is on the right path. A challenge for all superintendents, of course, is staying in touch with employers to remain sensitive to what graduates are facing in the workplace. In that regard, Dr. Smyser and the School Board seem to be inclined to seek input. Anyway, as a new school year starts, we have reason to be optimistic about the direction of the school district.|
|Tuesday, August 5, 2014|
|Free Lunch on Friday|
|Whoever said there's no such thing as a free lunch never heard about "Fridays at the Chamber!"|
For the second summer in a row, on select Fridays at lunch, the Chamber does a cookout on its patio. The price is (drum roll please)....FREE! Yep, "Fridays at the Chamber" are free for Chamber members. And, there are no programs and presentations. The whole gathering consists of people enjoying hotdogs, hamburgers and watermelon while chatting with friends and meeting new people. The timing is flexible, too. Stop in anytime between 11:30 and 1:00.
"Fridays at the Chamber" is made possible by generous sponsors including your benefactor this week, Advantage DataSystems Corporation
The next "Fridays at the Chamber" cookout is this Friday August 8, 11:30 - 1:00. You can register by going here.
Plan to stop on Friday.
|Tuesday, July 29, 2014|
|Community Investment or Just a Wish List?|
|For decades residents of Fort Collins have elected to tax themselves to pay for public investments they wanted to improve their community.|
It started in 1973 with a ballot measure popularly known as "Building Tomorrow Today." Over the decades that followed, there has been a series of tax measures on the ballot with a specific list of proposed community projects and a tax that sunsets after a specific period of time. You should review the list of tax measures and the projects they funded, which you can find here. It's a remarkable list and a great example of enlightened self-governance. This approach has helped make Fort Collins one of America's most livable places.
The magic of the process is that it is voluntary taxation to accomplish important things over a specific period of time. City officials - electeds and staff - have honored the trust by doing what voters approved. (One exception would be Prospect between Prospect Parkway just east of Timberline and I-25. It was to be widened to 4 lanes. Instead, it remains only two lanes but with more turn lanes.)
The latest iteration of this series of tax measures was called "Building on Basics." Known as BOB, the tax is due to expire December 31, 2015. The imminent sunsetting of this tax has set a planning process in motion at City Hall to identify the next set of projects to propose to voters next April.
Now is the time to begin tuning in to the process. The reason is because wants substantially exceed needs as everybody adds their projects to the list. At this point the 'wants' list is approximately $421M to $456M (capital cost only) and $484M to $584M when 10 years of operations and maintenance are added. This far exceeds the projected revenue of $80 million over 10 years.
The risk is that pet projects or things that are routine will dominate the list instead of things that are genuine investments in the livability of the community.
The Chamber has not offered a specific list at this point in the process because it's still early but we have a bias towards transportation mobility. In particular, street projects that improve traffic flow should be given priority.
If you want to see the larger list as it now stands, go here and their descriptions here.
The City Council will be taking this issue up at a special retreat on Saturday, October 11 (location and time to be determined).
|Tuesday, July 15, 2014|
|And the Big Issue in Town is....|
|Quick, name the biggest community issue that comes to mind.|
Some of you probably thought 'jobs' or 'good-paying jobs' or 'the economy.' Those make sense. While things are going well in the Fort Collins region, we aren't creating enough good paying jobs to meet demand. As I've mentioned in this space previously, we rank 7th in the nation in under-employment.
For others, "traffic congestion" was the first thing to pop into your heads. A logical subset of this one is "I-25 traffic."
Still others of you might have thought "affordable housing." Another good choice. The real estate markets for apartments and single-family residents is tight at the moment. In fact, we have some of the highest rents in the state. There are a lot of factors here, but city government's 3-unrelated ordinance and costly are development regulations are the biggest drivers.
The proposed on-campus Colorado State University stadium, MAX rapid bus transit, and the redevelopment of the mall probably made some of your lists.
So, what is the big issue? Banning plastic grocery bags, of course, silly! Well, at least according to our City Council. They approved an ordinance on First Reading at their July 1 meeting to require grocers to charge a 10 cent 'fee' for single use plastic and paper bags beginning in January. The ordinance was up for final approval tonight on Second Reading but because of adverse feedback from citizens, the item has been rescheduled for August 19.
In the scheme of things, this is not a big economic issue for the community. Consequently, the Chamber doesn't have a formal position on the issue. That said, a number of you have mentioned it to us as one more example of local government overreach and intrusion, a half-thought out, largely symbolic effort to help some people feel good about 'saving the planet.'
Those sentiments make sense starting with the fact that so-called 'single use' bags are actually reused for various purposes in most of our homes. Then consider that studies have shown that plastic bags only account for 0.6 percent of the nation's visual litter. In Fort Collins that number is probably even less. It's a 'solution' in search of a problem.
Anyway, as a member service, if you want to weigh in on the issue with your Council Members, you can get in touch with the mayor, all city council members and the city manager by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Tuesday, July 8, 2014|
|BizWest Map Illustrates Fort Collins Momentum|
There are a lot of construction projects underway in Fort Collins right now, so many that it's a little hard to keep them all straight. Thankfully we have BizWest (formerly Northern Colorado Business Report) to help. If you haven't seen the June 27 - July 10, 2014 edition of BizWest, you might want to track one down. The "Real Estate & Construction" section has a great article titled "Momentum Builds in Fort Collins." Best of all there's a two-page spread with a spotter map and accompanying explanation of the key projects proposed, approved, under construction and recently completed.
The story (minus the cool map) can be found here.
|Tuesday, June 24, 2014|
|Where Do Visitors All Come From?|
This is Denver-centric but applies to Colorado in general, including Northern Colorado. Where do visitors originate from? According to a big data dump by Visit Denver last week, the top 12 states for visitors are:
- New Mexico
- New York
The top cities from outside of Colorado sending visitors were:
- Los Angeles
- Albuquerque-Santa Fe
- San Diego
- Dallas-Ft. Worth
- Minneapolis-St. Paul
- New York
If you are hosting out of town visitors this summer, a great source of information is the Fort Collins Convention & Visitors Bureau. Find loads of information at www.VisitFtCollins.com/.
|Tuesday, June 17, 2014|
|The Wisdom of Dad|
|Father's Day was this past Sunday. I spent some time thinking about my dad who passed away in 2010. He was one of the smartest, most capable people I've ever known. All that with a 10th grade education and blue-collar railroad carman work history.|
I won't regale you with a bunch of personal dad stories except for one that illustrates the point I want to make, which is that wisdom is not a monopoly for people with big titles and formal education. In 1990 I was a young chamber of commerce executive in Independence, Missouri, and our daughter had just been born. My parents and a brother and his family came to see the new grandbaby. It was one of the rare times they ever visited.
Anyway, after the requisite oowing and aahing over the baby, I asked Dad if he'd like to see where I worked. We drove over to the chamber, which at that time was in a 1960s era blond-brick, one-story building tucked in between a brick warehouse and a bar.
As we took the short tour around the building, I was a bit apologetic about the place. It wasn't much. Dad didn't say anything, just listened and took it all in. Finally, he said, "This sure beats the he** out of throwing rail ties up out of a hopper car, don't it?" He was referring to a summer job I had at the Milwaukee Railroad where I did just that in the humid Iowa heat of summer. Later he added, "Remember that you've already come much further than most people ever have to go."
I don't think he ever fully understood what the chamber of commerce did but he was proud of the fact that I was first in our line to ever go to college and that I wasn't having to do what he called 'stoop labor.'
In his own wise way he was saying 'keep things in perspective, appreciate what you have and what you've accomplished, don't forget where you came from.' Wise counsel for all of us, I suppose.
|Tuesday, June 10, 2014|
|Working on Some Big Projects|
We are charging ahead on big projects this year at the Chamber. Here's a quick update on some of them:
- Legislative session. Gratefully, the 2014 session of the Colorado General Assembly is complete. Business fared better this year than last. We have a wrap-up doc that we'll be sending out in the near future.
- I-25 funding. As reported previously, we are creating a two-county alliance to lobby for $965M to widen the interstate to 3 lanes each way between Highway 14 and Highway 66 just north of Longmont. Lobbying and communications plans are being developed, basic transportation funding 101 background papers have been written, alliance leaders are being recruited and we met recently with the Coloradoan editorial board. This is a big project and an important one for the area's economy and quality of life.
- City Council candidates. Next April is an election for City Council. Four of the seven seats are up for a vote. We are looking for great candidates and people willing to help get them elected. Decisions by local government have a huge impact on the business climate.
- Competitive study. We get so focused on the rah-rah stuff to promote the community that it's tempting to stop asking the hard questions about how we actually are doing as a community. How competitive are we really? What can we improve? We are about ready to commission a study to tackle those questions?
- Website update. It seems like we just update the Chamber's website, but it's time again. We are looking for a re-launch this fall.
- Fort Collins Works campaign. Related to the competitive study noted above, we also realize that we need to do a better job of talking with the public about jobs and economic development. We will be running a series of ads to communicate the importance of business and the need to remain focused on actions to keep the local economy strong.
That's a hasty report on the big stuff. Thanks for your support. Let me know if you have questions about any of this. You can reach me at email@example.com or 970 482-3751 x 102.
|Tuesday, June 3, 2014|
|Chamber Supports On-Campus Stadium|
|I wanted to let you know before it became public that the board of directors has voted to endorse the construction of a new stadium on the main campus of Colorado State University.|
This issue has been under discussion for the past 2 1/2 years, and, to say the least, it has been controversial. That's to be expected. People care deeply about CSU and Fort Collins and want the best for both. There's plenty of room for disagreement about whether a stadium benefits one or the other, both or neither. It's an issue made for smart and well-informed people to reach different conclusions.
We listened carefully to the arguments on both sides of the issue. This is a big and complex project with many details. We elected to use a simple filter of three questions.
First, is the on-campus stadium good for the local economy? Our conclusion is that the economy will benefit during the construction phase and from the ongoing operation of the stadium, a more competitive university and redevelopment ignited near the new facility.
Second, is the on-campus stadium good for the overall quality of life and well-being of the community? Our conclusion is that the community quality of life will benefit from having a major readily accessible multi-purpose facility near the core of the city.
Third, whose decision is this to make and have they been sensitive to the wider impacts of siting a stadium in the core of the community? The final decision rests with CSU leaders not the community. Even so, we appreciate the parameters placed around the project at the outset and the engagement of the university with the general public, the campus community, surrounding neighborhoods and the City of Fort Collins.
You can find a fuller statement here. You can reach me at 970 482-3751 x 102 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Tuesday, May 27, 2014|
|May's Summer Reading List|
Summer time! Sunshine, long days, cookouts, family, hikes, travel and...summer reading! People who casually know me are sometimes surprised to learn that I can actually read, but it's true! Here's what I'm reading this summer.
The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in Peace and War by H.W. Brands. This is a holdover from last summer's list that I didn't get to. Grant was revered in the North and despised in the South but was one of his generation's most capable leaders though his reputation was sullied by the corruption of people in his presidential administration. I'm a few chapters in and can report that Brands does a great job of letting the humanity, courage and decency of Grant come through.
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene B. Sledge. I just finished this one. When my daughter was in high school, she opined that it was horrible that Truman had dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. It was a devastating act by any standard, but the context of the times do matter. Read this book by former Marine Eugene Sledge and any sentimentalism for Imperial Japan dies. This book inspired the HBO series 'The Pacific.' It is one of the best books ever written on WWII. It's rawness ends any romantic notions of war. It's a story of common Americans thrust into horrific circumstances not of their own making and their attempts to hang on to any shred of humanity.
The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-45 by Rick Atkinson. This is the third volume of Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy. It's a tome but I found the first two books fascinating. The shrunk-wrapped sanitized version of history we're taught in school leaves out all of the color and texture. Find that here.
Others on my list:
- The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States by Gordon S. Wood. Ours is being called the post-constitutional era. I hope that's not true. Although it's messy, America's Founders figured out the genius of self-governance. I'm looking forward to reading what this Pulitzer Prize-winning author pulled together.
- The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs by Cynthia A. Montgomery
- America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century - Why America's Greatest Days are Yet to Come by James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus
- Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day by Todd Henry
- The Reinventors: How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical Continuous Change by Jason Jennings
- Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen. I know, I know. The Chamber just had Jim Collins in town to talk about this book. While I've read parts of it, I haven't read it yet front to back.
- Step Up: Lead in Six Moments That Matter by Henry Evans and Colm Foster
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- A Sense of Urgency by John Kotter. Last summer I recommended and read Leading Change by Kotter and am already most of the way through this book. I'm fascinated with the art and science of enduring organizational change. Particularly interesting is the idea of having the urgency to change and doing so before you're in crisis.
- Things that Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics by Charles Krauthammer. One of the clearest thinkers of our times is Charles Krauthammer. A disabled doctor who evolved from one political philosophy to another, Krauthammer is a television commentator and columnist. This is largely a collection of columns.
So, there you have it, my 'baker's dozen' reads for this summer.
To support local booksellers, here are a couple of ideas. Old Firehouse Books is at 232 Walnut in downtown and on the web at http://oldfirehousebooks.com/. If you're into e-books, go to Old Firehouse Books website, click on the Kobo logo in the middle of their webpage, then click on the person-icon in the upper right-hand corner to set up a Kobo account and assign Old Firehouse Books as your local bookstore. Then download the Kobo app to your book reader and you should be good to go.
Another local bookseller option is the Colorado State University Bookstore, http://www.bookstore.colostate.edu/ with their main location in the Lory Student Center on the CSU main campus.
|Tuesday, May 13, 2014|
|Winners and Losers as Baby Boomers Retire|
|Last month the Chamber hosted Mark Lautman, author of the book When the Boomers Bail. I wrote about the book in a previous post, which you can find here. It was an interesting opportunity to hear first-hand from an expert on community economics and workforce / demographic changes.|
The very short version is that communities will be engaged in talent wars to find enough people with the skills for local employers. There will be winner and loser as companies cast their recruitment nets far and wide. Community quality of life and affordability will be key factors.
Lautman largely believes that Fort Collins will be fine in this talent war. For the most part, I agree with him. I am less confident because housing costs and availability, left unaddressed, might be a barrier to the young demographic we want to attract and retain.
We did tape the event and you can watch it at the link on this page.
|Tuesday, May 6, 2014|
|Chamber Adopts Membership Policy on Marijuana|
Marijuana is a big topic in Colorado, as you well know. The Chamber opposed Amendment 64, which 'legalized' recreational pot use in the state. It's passage at the state level set up a conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act.
This legal ambiguity will eventually be resolved, but in the meantime, what about marijuana companies that may want to join the Chamber?
In anticipation of that eventuality, we have adopted the following policy:
Properly licensed marijuana- and hemp-related businesses are eligible for membership in the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce under the conditions outlined in Article 2 of the Bylaws. The President is authorized to develop the policies and procedures under which such companies are allowed to use the chamber's name, logo and facility and otherwise associate with the Chamber. Adopting this policy does not condone the use of a federally-controlled substance but is a practical recognition of the ambiguity between state and federal law and a reasonable attempt to accommodate entrepreneurs in this line of business. - Adopted April 21, 2014
The administrative policies mentioned in this board-adopted policy can be found here. The short version is that anyone supporting the community-building mission of the Chamber is welcome to, but until the legal conflict between federal, state and local laws is resolved, the marketing benefits of the Chamber will only be considered on an individual basis. While wanting to be inclusive, the Chamber does not want to be complicit in marketing products that are classified as illegal under federal law.
It's not a perfect approach, perhaps, but was thoughtfully considered in the absence of any other models.