|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.
|Tuesday, April 22, 2014|
|Great by Choice|
Last Wednesday the community experienced one of those rare cultural events that will impact the community for years to come. That morning 1,050 people gathered at the Lincoln Center to see best-selling author Jim Collins. The audience included people from small businesses, large companies, area nonprofits, city and county government, law enforcement, and the school district.
I don't remember the last time I was at an event with the CEO's of the leading companies in town, the police chief, the sheriff, the superintended of schools, school board members, the mayor, the city manager, city council members, and university leaders.
Nobody left disappointed. Collins was a powerful presence, and it showed in the faces in the audience. You could here a pin drop most of the time. Nobody was fiddling with their technology or chatting or gazing at the ceiling. They were dialed in to Collins.
The presentation focused on his newest book, Great by Choice, and he presented and discussed 12 Questions that all organizations should be asking.
During the final hour on stage, he had the audience take a few minutes to work in small groups to identify the one question they'd to ask him. Then audience members lined up to ask their questions. It was impressive all around, both Collins and the audience. He responded thoughtfully to all of the questions posed and the audience showed its collective smarts and willingness to ask not only business questions but how his insights apply to communities and to ask him personal questions.
Social media was abuzz during and after the event. Search #FCThoughtLeader on Twitter to read comments and reactions from the event.
A huge thank you to our sponsors. To bring in someone the quality of Jim Collins requires serious coin, only made possible with their financial support. The Overall Sponsor was Otterbox. Other sponsors were Bohemian Foundation, CSU School of Business, Everitt Companies, Woodward, BBVA Compass, City of Fort Collins, Heath Construction, UCHealth, Advanced Energy, Allergy and Asthma Center of the Rockies, Banner Health, Brinkman Partners, Brock & Company, CPAs, Chrisland Commercial, EKS&H, Flood & Peterson, Foothills Mall, Forney Industries, Otis & Peters, LLC, Yancey's, High Country Beverage, Advance Tank, Community Banks of Colorado, CSU Bookstore, Larimer County, Maxey Manufacturing, Miramont Lifestyle Fitness, Poudre River Library District, Poudre School District, Wolf Robotics, Lamar, Rocky Mountain Publishing and Old Town Media.
|Tuesday, April 15, 2014|
|Jim Collins, Tomorrow - Only 80 Tickets Remain|
|There are only 80 tickets remaining for tomorrow's event with best-selling author Jim Collins. Collins will be presenting at the Lincoln Center 9:30 - Noon. The auditorium seats 1,180 people so we are nearing sellout. If you want to attend, call 970-482-3746 or go online www.FortCollinsChamber.com.|
|Tuesday, April 8, 2014|
|Chorus Grows to Fix North I-25|
Mobility has a huge impact on the economy and the quality of life of an area. A local example is I-25 north of Longmont. Sometimes it flows well, sometimes not. When the latter happens, the lost productivity and diminished quality of life are evident.
Below is a column I wrote that was published in the Coloradoan last weekend. It highlights the growing problem and points out the absurdity of waiting until 2075 to fix the problem. Also below, you'll find some guiding principles being worked on by area business organizations relative to North I-25. They are in draft form only, so if you have comments or suggestions, let me know at email@example.com.
Coloradoan Article: Fix north I-25 by 2025
Fix North I-25 Guiding Principles DRAFT
|Tuesday, April 1, 2014|
|Less than 200 Tickets Remain for Jim Collins|
As you know from previous communications from the Chamber, we are hosting best-selling author Jim Collins at the Lincoln Center on the morning of Wednesday April 16. Over 900 tickets are gone, only 200 remain.
So, this is currently the hottest ticket in town. Members can get tickets for only $99, non-members for $150. You can purchase tickets online at www.fortcollinschamber.com.
# # #
We don’t have much information at this point but wanted to let you know that a long-time chamber member / volunteer / friend Leonard Benzel died yesterday. He was active with the Red Carpet Committee and was always a happy and welcome presence. His great attitude and positive spirit will be missed. We assume information about Leonard will be in the Coloradoan soon. In the meantime, feel free to contact Kim Medina on the Chamber’s staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will be getting information as it becomes available.
|Tuesday, March 11, 2014|
|Making Sense of the Health Care Nonsense|
|With each announcement about yet another delay to yet another provision of the Affordable Care Act (aka ‘Obamacare’) do you feel even more confused about health care? Well, you’re in good company. It’s a common problem more businesspeople have.|
You should strongly consider attending the Chamber’s Health Care in Your Future event the morning of March 26 at the Embassy Suites. The purpose of the event is to help businesspeople understand what is happening with health care and health insurance.
The Keynote Speaker is Scott Gottlieb, MD. Dr. Gottlieb is a practicing physician, a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a leading expert in health policy. He has written over 300 articles that have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, Forbes Magazine and various medical journals.
He will be followed by a variety of other presenters.
You can get your tickets HERE or call the Chamber at (970) 482-3746.
|Tuesday, March 4, 2014|
|Chamber Calls for Delay of Retail Marijuana|
|Marijuana is on the City Council agenda tonight. The Council will be deciding whether to allow retail marijuana sales in Fort Collins and discussing particulars surrounding that decision such as how many locations, where they can be located and what they can sell.|
After reviewing the issue, the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the City Council last week encouraging them to continue a moratorium on retail marijuana sales in Fort Collins. In our opinion, there are too many unanswered questions on the matter. More time may help.
You can find the City Council material on the retail marijuana issue here, and you can find the Chamber’s letter to the Council here.
|Tuesday, February 18, 2014|
|When the Boomers Bail|
Recently the Chamber’s Executive Vice President Ann Hutchison and I attended the annual conference of the Western Association of Chamber Executives. One of the speakers we heard was Mark Lautman. A former economic development practitioner, Lautman is author of a compelling book titled “When the Boomers Bail: How Demographics will Sort Communities into Winners and Losers.”
It’s a compelling read, if you’re interested in how the accelerating retirement of the Baby Boom generation will impact our community, especially the economy.
Following are our notes from the session:
- Economic development is personal. It really matters to people at a very personal level. The jobs it fosters saves families, keeps them together, lets them have the means to accomplish some of their dreams.
- Economic Development = growing your economy just a little faster than population growth with everyone sharing in the prosperity (including those in poverty). Growth must come from primary employment (economic base) versus service industry. Communities cannot grow their economies by just growing the service sector.
- If your community is dependent upon federal government expenditures, you have a problem
- Current recession recovery is an "L" pattern versus the traditional "V" pattern of all past recessions. 20% of economy in 2008 was "fake". Consumption patterns will not fuel the recovery.
- U.S. is basically energy independent with lowest energy costs of the world.
- Book: “Shop Class as Soulcraft” - Matthew Crawford
- Book: “The End of Competitive Advantage” - Rita McGrath
- Idea: Innovation Units that create the next idea, sell it before it peaks and then start the next idea. Keep the people to keep building the new ideas, sell the ideas.
- There is a growing employment skills mismatch in our country.
- Labor Starvation Scenario: Qualified Workers vs Unqualified Workers vs Dependents - must grow Qualified Workers for success. Must do a better job with mid-career transitions to viable workers while moving younger people into workforce more efficiently.
- Communities used to be able to attract companies by lowering the cost of entry (land, fees, etc). Now you must have a compelling community to bring companies in – attractive community, qualified workers, good quality of life.
- New Program continuum: Economic Development to Workforce to Community Quality (check his website)
- Workforce Trend: solo workers - at home versus in factories/offices. Actual employees or 1099 (back to basics - all products made in cottages)
- You must understand the demographics in your community better than you do today – who is happy, who not, better workforce data, need to see gaps and measure state of readiness of the workforce
- Teach physics in the 5th grade; countries that do so produce technically-wired talent; see what they are doing in Colorado Springs
- Inverted labor supply – Boomers first generation in history of country to not replace themselves then did a poor job of educating the children they did have. The real issue is that we do not have enough qualified workers. In time this will shift power from employers to employees.
- Site selectors for companies are now careful about the issue of availability of future workers; need to be a place where people want to live.
- Lack of available talent means stealing talent from other places; Must think of your community as a talent magnet
- Now must have a compelling community which attracts talent which in turn attracts companies; brings economic development back into the chamber of commerce’s wheelhouse; economic developers don’t understand this.
- Economic Determinism – what Lautman calls “The Gumption Cycle.” It’s basically a community goal-setting cycle. People without the “gumption mindset” see affluent people and assume they inherited their wealth, stole it or won the lottery. Those with a “gumption mindset” know that people can work hard, invest, become successful and have the ability to perpetuate this success cycle.
- Look at his “Predictive Economic Base Job Creation Calculus” system – Population Estimate minus Jobs Estimate minus Attrition of Jobs Estimate = how many jobs your community needs to create. This is the employment gap you need to close. Then follow this with a discussion about industry sectors that fit your assets; then decide what gaps you must address, identify where you have no strategy to go after jobs in sectors where there are gaps.
- You can improve the metabolic rate of organic job creation by improving the business climate.
- Book: “Who’s Your City” by Richard Florida; where you choose to live is the most important decision you make
- Every dime the public sector gets comes from a private sector company
|Tuesday, February 11, 2014|
|Are We Doomed?|
How about that for an attention-grabbing headline? “Are We Doomed?” It does seem that way at times. Nationally, we seem stuck on stupid with policies that encourage people not to work combined with the endless partisan wrangling. It’s soul-sucking. It feels like we’re in a circular firing squad shooting each other while squandering our future prosperity. This is a common sentiment: Poll after poll show that Americans don’t think our country is on the right path. Worse, a majority believe that America will decline in the decades ahead. But, but…
…as quarrelsome as we can be, Americans are also resilient. While I can be as cranky as the next person about short-term issues, I’m still an optimist about America’s future. Maybe I’m in denial, but I don’t think so.
As evidence, I point to a recent opinion piece by thinker and author Joel Kotkin, executive editor of NewGeography.com. It is titled “America’s Glass Half-empty or Half-full?” In it Kotkin cites several long-term trends that play to our advantage. They are in the areas of the economy, environment and demography.
Before going there, Kotkin first offers his opinion on why the nation is so glum. Among his observations are fiscal policies that support the affluent without helping main street and discouraged workers that have dropped out of the labor force
Then he offers up five reasons for optimism, which are:
- All other countries are in worse shape. So, while we are not charging ahead to stake out a strong national competitive advantage, nobody else is either.
- America’s energy revolution has been a game-changer.
- America is enjoying a manufacturing resurgence.
- We have big demographic advantages. While we are aging rapidly, America is aging less rapidly than most other countries. Our national birth rate is high enough to avoid a demographic implosion with the attendant economic decline.
- And finally, and this may be a shocker, Kotkin says we enjoy the blessings of federalism. The dysfunction of the federal government makes this one seem implausible, but he makes the point that our national strength originates from the 50 experiments we call states and the larger regions of the country.
So, there you go. I’d suggest that you take a moment to read Kotkin’s article. You can click on the title above. It will shift your perspective from the gloom and doom news of the day to a happier place.
|Tuesday, February 4, 2014|
|Random Thoughts on Various Issues|
Love it or hate it, the Colorado state constitution requires a vote of the people on all local and state tax increases. One consequence, however, is to tempt elected officials to play the ‘fee game.’ Call a tax a fee and the messiness of asking the public for permission to part with its money goes away. Some of these angles are being pondered by a couple of City Council members. Instead of asking for a transportation tax, for example, just impose a so-called transportation fee. Stay tuned.
Half of you reading this believe that raising the minimum wage is the right thing, the humane thing, to do. It just feels right. The problem of thinking with your feelings, of course, is that it ignores unforeseen consequences. Every time the state or federal minimum wage goes up, restaurateurs, retailers and others businesses have to assess what it means to them. Sometimes it forces them to cut back hours, cut staff positions or convert full-time positions to part-time. Most can’t absorb a government-imposed expense without offsetting it somewhere. The consequence can be that the very people the increase is supposed to help are actually harmed.
Last fall an out-of-town guest in a delegation studying Fort Collins asked me what keeps me awake at night. My answer was ‘community complacency.’ It is great to be Fort Collins. I wouldn’t trade our situation with any other community in the country, not one.
Success, however, breeds complacency, a sense that we have arrived. I’ve heard it from a few elected officials who say we’re doing too much for economic development. Really? Here are issues that indicate otherwise:
- Colorado State University is the area’s biggest employer and economic engine. Disruptive educational innovations have emerged that, combined with the growing costs to attend college, might impact the traditional university model. If that happens, over the long-run, what does this mean to CSU and the Fort Collins economy?
- And talk about disruption, retail is undergoing a dramatic transformation as e-commerce has grown 18 percent per year over the past decade. Presently about 15 percent of retail purchases are made online and the number is growing. What does that mean to local retailers and city government, which depends on sales tax revenue?
- The personal computer business continues to shrink as technology goes mobile. Sales of PCs declined another 10 percent in 2013. What does that mean to Fort Collins and its mature high tech sector with companies like Intel and Hewlett-Packard?
- Fort Collins is a smart place! About half of residents have a college degree, significantly higher than the national average. But we have the dubious honor of ranking 7th in the nation in under-employment. Basically, we are not creating enough good-paying jobs for our citizens.Shouldn’t we keep the creation of good-paying jobs a high community priority?
My point: Stay focused on proactively creating the future we want or we may not like it when we arrive there.
|Tuesday, January 28, 2014|
|Best-selling Author Jim Collins, April 16|
|Before we announce this to the public, we wanted to give you a ‘heads up’ that we are arranging an appearance in Fort Collins by best-selling author Jim Collins this spring. Details are still being finalized, but Collins is scheduled to speak the morning of Wednesday April 16.|
Among his many books are Built to Last; Good to Great; and Great by Choice.
The Chamber is still seeking sponsors for this event. If you are interested in doing so, please contact Ann Hutchison at 970-482-3751 x 107.
When we had Jim Collins here in 2005, nearly 800 people attended, so this promises to be a hot ticket! Put a hold on your calendar for the morning of April 16 and keep an eye out for details regarding times, venue and ticket pricing.
|Tuesday, January 21, 2014|
|6 Things We Want in City Council Candidates|
Like it or not, for good or bad, city government has a big impact on business in Fort Collins. For the most part, the impact is good. A well run, financially strong, clean local government is a great asset for business.
However, while we enjoy good local government here in Fort Collins, we are only one vote away from a mess. Shift one of the positions on the current 7-member City Council towards the no-progress / no-growth end of the political spectrum, and economic progress lurches to a stop.
So, what can we do about that? The Chamber Board has made finding and supporting good people for election to the City Council in 2015 a top priority this year. In April 2015 four seats will be up for election: mayor, District 2 (east central Fort Collins; incumbent Lisa Poppaw is term-limited), District 4 (southwest Fort Collins; incumbent Wade Troxell is term-limited), and District 6 (northwest Fort Collins; incumbent Gerry Horak is completing one term and is eligible to serve again.)
Recently while explaining this to a group of business people, someone asked me to articulate what I mean by ‘good people’ when looking for Council candidates. Let me start by saying what we are NOT looking for. We do not want people who are dishonest and corrupt, we do not support people who are agenda-driven anti-progress ideologues, we are not interested in people who are uncommitted to the community and the job of Council, and we are not interested in novices who have shown little interest in civic engagement.
In contrast to that are a half-dozen things we want to see in City Council candidates:
- Honest. The key characteristic for an elected official is their honesty in both their actions and being intellectually honest with their approach to issues.
- Balanced. A councilperson is a representative of all of the people, not a champion of a special interest group or a narrow perspective. Philosophically a good candidate is one that brings a balanced view. For example, they value the environment while understanding the need for a strong local economy; they support a viable street infrastructure while being open to alternative transportation. Being balanced also means being able to work well with professional city staff while not automatically deferring to their judgment.
- Committed. Doing the job right requires a significant dedication of time and energy. Constituent relations, attending meetings and reading voluminous material in preparation for meetings are all part of the job. Do work and family circumstances lend themselves to this person doing a good job for the community?
- Motivated. The primary motivation should be to serve the public interests. If this person is agenda-driven, power-hungry or captive to special interest agendas, s/he will not perform their duties with integrity and with a broader vision of what is in the interests of the overall community now and in the future. And, a good candidate must be motivated enough to campaign vigorously for the position.
- Experienced. Does this person have experience in their work and civic life that lends itself to this position? Does this person have the knowledge of the position, the governance of local government and the issues to be an effective councilperson? Everybody has life experiences that would lend an interesting perspective to Council, but some are more useful to the public than others. Has this person really prepared to take on this important civic duty?
- Electable. Does this person have the personal traits and the qualifications to make them a viable candidate in the eyes of the voting public? Are there issues or experiences in this person’s past that help or hurt them with the electorate?
In 15 short months, we will be electing 4 people to a 7-member body that represents the other 150,000 people in town. It is very important to have people on the City Council who will represent us well with competence and integrity.
If you are interested in running for City Council or supporting good people who are, let me know at 970 482-3751 x 102 or at email@example.com. I also encourage you to visit the City Clerk’s website here to learn more about city elections.
|Tuesday, January 7, 2014|
|Colorado Legislative Session Will Impact Business|
|Most businesspeople don’t structure their lives around government unless their government is a key customer. Even so, if you’re in business, government has a large and growing presence. That goes for all levels of government – local, state and federal.|
Colorado state government is prominent in the news this week because of marijuana and the start of the legislative session. Regarding the latter, the Second Regular Session of the 69th Colorado General Assemble officially starts at 10:00 tomorrow morning, January 8th.
It’s an all-Democrat show with the Senate, House and Governor’s Mansion all controlled by Democrats. The differences this session over last, however, are that this is an election year and Democrats only have a one-vote margin in the Senate due to the historic recall of two of their leaders last year for their support of stricter gun laws.
What does all of that mean? Who knows? Until the recalls, Democrats were emboldened to push through their agenda with impunity. Will they have to moderate their approach to keep their caucus together in an election year or will they press on while they still hold all the levers of power? I’m guessing the former, but only time will tell.
During the session, the Chamber’s Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance will be on duty tracking legislation and lobbying on behalf of our region. Expect periodic updates and ‘calls-to-action’ throughout the session, which is scheduled to end on May 7.
For your reading pleasure, here are some articles about the upcoming session:
“Workers’ comp reform talks continue, but more questions arise,” Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, December 27th.
“2014 legislative preview: Colorado Senate Dems, GOP disagree on whether to restart 2013 debates,” Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, January 2nd.
“Colorado Senate Democrats: After 2013 gun debate, new rules for hearing bills planned,” Lynn Bartels, The Denver Post, January 2nd.
“2014 legislative preview: Colorado House Dems, GOP approach job creation differently,” Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, January 3rd.
“2014 legislative preview: 10 business issues at the Colorado statehouse,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, January 3rd.
“2014 legislative preview: Here are other Colorado legislators who will be key votes on business bills this year,’ Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, January 3rd.
“2014 legislative preview: Sen. Cheri Jahn keeps an eye out for Colorado business,” video interview, The Denver Business Journal, January 3rd.
“2014 legislative preview: Colorado lawmakers to face education money issues,” Todd Engdahl, EdNews Colorado, The Denver Business Journal, January 5th.
“Colorado legislature opens Wednesday with a floods-and-firearms theme,” Lynn Bartels and Kurtis lee, The Denver Post, January 6th.
“House GOP looks to tweak a few issues from last year,’ by Peter Marcus, The Colorado Statesman, January 6th.
“Budget will be larger, but that could lead to more contentious discussions,” Peter Marcus, The Colorado Statesman, January 6th.
“Businesses brace for workers’ comp bill in 2014 session,” Marianne Goodland, The Colorado Statesman, January 6th.
|Tuesday, December 17, 2013|
|2014 Top Chamber Priorities|
After a very successful 2013, which included helping retain Woodward in Fort Collins, the Chamber is focused on six top priorities for 2014:
- Find candidates for 2015 City Council elections. Local government has a big impact on business. Having people on the Council at least willing to consider the impact of government policies on business and the economy is very important to the community’s wellbeing.
- Increase public advocacy of the Chamber’s Jobs Agenda. The Chamber has a 40-point jobs plan (www.FortCollinsWorks.com). In 2014, we will take the plan public.
- Conduct a competitive economic study. Businesspeople regularly tell us the challenges they have doing business in Fort Collins and local government says everything is fine. So, which is it? We plan to take an objective look at where the community is economically competitive and where we can use improvements.
- Lobby for funding to widen I-25 by launching an I-25 business coalition.
- Conduct a strong total resource campaign that exceeds 2013 results to keep the Chamber focused on initiatives and programs of value to members and the community and that provide necessary financial resources to operate the Chamber.
- Lobby to influence projects included on the City’s proposed 2015 capital campaign ballot measure. The Chamber has a history of supporting tax measures for long-term capital investments and wants to keep the city focused on such projects.
|Tuesday, December 10, 2013|
|It All Begins with Why|
|Purpose matters. Why your organization exists drives your decisions and actions.|
Inspired by a TED presentation by Simon Sinek, the author of the “Start With Why,” last year the Chamber Board had a series of conversations about the Chamber and its purpose. The ‘Start With Why’ discussions were very interesting and really engaged board members. It was clear this was not an intellectual exercise. This was about their hearts. They aren’t investing their time and money in the Chamber just because it’s the right thing to do or just to foster job creation or just to speak up for business. It’s all of that but bigger. They see the Chamber as a tool they can use to create a vibrant, livable community. Having profitable successful businesses is a laudable end in itself, but to them having vibrant businesses is fundamental to the success of the community they care so much about.
Following is the product of the Chamber Board’s discussion of why. Their conclusions are embedded in the Chamber’s strategic plan and reflected in the initiatives and programs of the Chamber.
What is Our Purpose?
To proactively empower businesspeople to build a community in which their businesses can thrive and in which they are proud to live.
What Do We Believe?
A thriving and proactive business community that provides good jobs elevates the entire community.
Why Do We Exist?
To influence positive economic results and provide connections
To encourage a business-friendly environment that generates individual and community success so we can afford the future we want.
Why Should Anyone Care?
Prosperity does not long reside in one place without conscious attention and continuous effort by community and business leaders.
Our community needs its businesses to flourish.
|Tuesday, November 26, 2013|
|Much to be Thankful For|
With 50 degree weather forecast for the next week, it’s almost hard to believe that it’s Thanksgiving. But, this being Colorado, we’ll take it!
Thankfulness is something I try to practice every day, but it’s top of mind for most of us this time of year. With even just a little reflection, we realize how much is going right in our lives.
Here’s a short, short version of my ‘thankful’ list:
- Top of the list, my family, followed by my good health.
- America. People have never lived with more freedom, general prosperity and opportunity than Americans.
- The men and women of the National Guard, the sheriff’s deputies, police officers, firefighters, search and rescue teams and others on the front lines during the fires of 2012 and the flood of 2013.
- Free enterprise. The genius of free market economies is a marvel. Individuals acting in their own self-interests helping each other because it’s in their mutual self-interest. People railing against free enterprise don’t appreciate the nuances and underlying dynamics. Free enterprise deserves full credit for dramatically improving the human condition.
- Businesspeople in Northern Colorado. It’s our pleasure at the Chamber to work closely with professionals and businesspeople every single day. We see them give as much to the community as they receive. Just look at the “Thumbs Up” section on the editorial page of the Saturday Coloradoan. Usually, at least half of the ‘thanks’ are being directed at businesses for something good they’ve done.
- Chamber volunteers and members. Akin to the item above is this one. We get to work around the best and brightest people in our community every day. I shouldn’t start naming names because I can’t possibly acknowledge everybody who deserves it, but one example would be the people who have led the Chamber in 2013 and our highly successful Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign. John Carroll, Ed Carroll Motors, Yvonne Myers of Columbine Health Systems and Chris Richmond of Flood & Peterson exemplify selfless and outstanding leadership.
- The Chamber staff. I’ve led chambers of commerce for over 30 years. This is the strongest group I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Every person is professional and competent, every one of them is a fine individual. I’m thankful to know them all.
Last but not least, I’m thankful for you and your decision to be part of our business community and the Chamber. Have a great Thanksgiving!
|Tuesday, November 19, 2013|
|Senate Majority Leader Rollie Heath Visits Chamber Board|
|At the meeting of the Chamber’s Board of Directors yesterday, State Senate Majority Leader Rollie Heath stopped in for a visit. Senator Heath is a Democrat from Boulder and has been a champion for education reform, including Amendment 66, which failed at the polls two weeks ago.|
Senator Heath is doing a listening tour around the state.
The conversation about education reform was a good one. We all agreed that strong public education is important to the future of Colorado. After that, opinions diverged in terms of how to make that happen. The senator asked board members why they thought Amendment 66 failed. That opened the flood gates – too big ($1 billion per year), too long (as in ‘forever’), it would have locked an even higher level of funding for education into the constitution, they didn’t earn broad based business support, they didn’t address the issue of the Gallagher Amendment that has unfairly shifted the property tax burden onto business, the two-tiered income tax in Amendment 66 unfairly targeted small companies, it was a huge amount of money for no promised results relative to education attainment by students, etc.
It was a very positive but direct conversation. Senator Heath was gracious and took it all in stride. He seemed genuinely interested in knowing why people didn’t support Amendment 66.
I was left wishing that the legislative majority and the education community that backed this measure had done a better job of listening BEFORE putting such a huge tax increase on the ballot. But, they had the votes in the legislature to push this issue forward along a straight party vote and had enough deep-pocket supporters to throw $12 million to get try to convince voters to pass the tax measure. Righteousness and a big war chest apparently looked like a winner.
Senator Heath seemed convinced that they just need to sharpen their message. But when 65 percent of voters give a resounding NO, it’s not really about the message. The education reform package and tax increase to pay for it were the problem. Tweaking the message won’t help.
Maybe education reformers will come back someday with another proposal. If they try, here’s hoping they get outside the political echo chamber that is Denver and genuinely listen to the needs of Coloradoans, not just the education lobby.
Senator Heath’s visit was a good indication in that regard.
|Tuesday, November 5, 2013|
|King / Queen for a Day: What Public Projects Would You Want Done?|
|Are there public capital projects you want to see built here in Fort Collins? The kind of things I’m talking about would be new streets or widening of existing streets, new community recreation centers, bike lanes or trails, fire stations, police equipment, park improvements, and the timing of traffic lights to name a few.|
The reason I’m asking is because conversations are underway in City Hall about the next capital improvement tax package to bring to voters. The Building on Basics ¼ cent sales tax is set to expire at the end of 2015. Passed in 2005, the measure known as BOB is projected to raise $57.6 million for expansion of the Senior Center, the construction of the Discovery Science Center, widening of Timberline between Drake and Prospect, etc. Most of the key projects have now been completed.
So what’s next? Let the existing tax expire? Ask voters to continue to tax to fund a specific set of projects?
The Chamber will be weighing in on this issue in a couple of ways. First, we will provide input on what projects we believe will have the biggest positive impact on the community. Second, we will take a position to support or oppose the final ballot measure based on its merits (size of the tax, duration, projects in the package).
Discussions are internal at this point at the City, but it’s possible a measure would be on the ballot in November 2014. If not then, it would be spring or fall of 2015.
But the time is now if you have recommendations on specific projects to be considered. If you have suggestions, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Tuesday, October 29, 2013|
|Public Supports More Water Storage|
Water is always a sensitive topic in the West. Other places drink it, we fight over it! Even as I look out the window as I write this at the gray sky and damp street and think about the scenes of devastation from the floods only six weeks ago, our water problems in Northern Colorado are usually about not having enough of the stuff rather than having too much.
The residents of Larimer and Weld counties understand the need for water development based on a poll recently conducted by pollster Ciruli Associates on behalf of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
Some of the findings include:
If interested in learning more about the poll, go here and see the press release here.
- 72% of Larimer County, 79% of Weld County and 60% of Morgan County residents support the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), which includes building the Glade Reservoir north of Horsetooth Reservoir.
- Fort Collins residents support NISP 60% vs. 19%.
- Only 8% of Greeley residents oppose it.
- Almost 90% believe Colorado should store water that is legally available to it before it flows out of state.
|Tuesday, October 22, 2013|
|Strong Economy, Sticking Up for Biz, Widening I-25|
|As a member of the Chamber, you are probably aware of the Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign now underway. It’s a volunteer-led effort to secure the resources for the Chamber to operate next year and accomplish key things for the community and business community.|
Three strategic initiatives being promoted during the campaign involve promoting the local economy, sticking up for business and supporting infrastructure projects. Here’s a little bit of information about each:
Job Creation Initiative. It’s great to be Fort Collins in terms of quality of life and the overall economy. Even so, we have a few challenges, especially when in comes to keeping up with job creation. We rank 7th in the nation in under-employment. That means many of our residents are working far below their education and skill level. This initiative lays out the business community’s economic vision for the community and specific programs to foster job creation. Read more here.
Stand Up for Business Initiative. In a relatively small place like Fort Collins it is important for the local government and business community to work well together. Mostly, that is the case. However, city government does not understand business. Its actions have a profound, and sometimes negative, impact on business and the business climate. This initiative is about directly, aggressively, persistently sticking up for business. Read more here.
Improved Infrastructure Initiative. How is it getting around town these days? How about the drive to Denver on I-25? In light of recent droughts and wildfires, are you concerned about the region’s water supply? Basic community infrastructure impacts our quality of life, our safety and the local economy. This initiative is about telling that story and lobbying for resources to improve key infrastructure in our region. Read more here.
If you see yourself or your company as a ‘community builder,’ consider supporting one or more of these initiatives. We need the financial support to move the dial on these important issues.
|Monday, October 14, 2013|
|Who is Moving to Colorado?|
Census data released last month gives some interesting insights about where Americans are moving. Last year, states welcomed 8.9 million new residents. 7.1 million Americans moved from one state to another and the other 1.8 million were people moving from abroad.
Governing magazine compiled data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. You can find an article about their findings here along with a great tool to look at moving data for each state.
The findings are fascinating. First, only 2.3 percent of Americans moved across state lines though 9 percent relocated within the same county and another 3.2 percent moved to another county in the same state.
The 10 fastest-growing states in terms of registering the most new residents, both from other states and abroad, as a share of the current total population:
Of course, in actual numbers, California, Florida, and Texas had the most residents.
- North Dakota: 6.0%
- Wyoming: 5.8%
- Hawaii: 5.5%
- Alaska: 5.3%
- Nevada: 5.1%
- Colorado: 4.7%
- New Hampshire: 4.3%
- Vermont: 4.3%
- Delaware: 4.2%
- Arizona: 4.2%
Here are mover demographic stats for Colorado:
- Ranking: total movers share of population 6 of 50
- Total movers share of population 4.7%
- Total out-of-state movers 240,666
- Total moved from a different state 205,060
- Total moved from abroad 35,606
- At least some college or associate degree 76.2%
- Median age of movers from different state 27.70
- % of movers under 18 19.8%
- % of movers age 65+ 4.3%
|Tuesday, October 8, 2013|
|Amendment 66 is a Costly Disappointment|
Ballots will be in the mail soon for the November elections. In the near future you’ll receive a special election electronic newsletter from the Chamber with our positions with background information.
In the meantime, I want to get a head start by briefing you on Amendment 66 and letting you know that the Chamber opposes it.
As its name indicates, this is an amendment. In this case, it’s an amendment to the state constitution. Amendment 66:
- raises the state individual income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 5.0 percent on the first $75,000 of taxable income, and to 5.9 percent on any taxable income over $75,000 (a 27.4 percent increase);
- deposits the additional tax revenue from the tax rate change into the newly created State Educational Achievement fund;
- implements legislation passed by the state legislature creating a new formula for allocating state and local funding to school districts;
- repeals the constitutional requirement that base per pupil funding for public education increase by at least the rate of inflation annually;
- and requires that at least 43 percent of state income, sales, and excise tax revenue, collected at existing tax rates, be set aside annually to pay for public education.
Overall, state funding for public education in Colorado would increase by 20 percent.
The Chamber strongly supports effective, accountable and properly funded public education. Unfortunately, Amendment 66 doesn’t accomplish the first two things – effective and accountable – and over-compensates on the funding. In fact, this measure will generate $1 billion annually forever for public education, but proponents don’t commit to better educational achievement by students.
The nexus between educational achievement and individual, community, state and national prosperity is undeniable. Anecdotally we see this cause and effect linkage and actual research backs it up. In short, as a society, if we want to thrive economically, we must have strong public education systems.
Businesspeople understand this; the business community wants and needs strong and effective schools. Those students are our children, and someday they will be our colleagues at work. So in addition to understanding how important education is for a prosperous society and our businesses, it’s important for the success of our children. We also know that the values we hold dear regarding individual opportunity, innovation, free enterprise, personal responsibility, and community are best preserved by an informed and educated populace.
This need and expectation of the business community for effective education heightens our disappointment with Amendment 66. After careful review and thoughtful consideration, the Fort Collins Area Chamber cannot support it.
Our opposition arises from issues concerning the size and perpetuity of the tax increase, our belief that more money will not necessarily result in increased educational attainment by Colorado students, how this tax increase would block resources to meet other state priorities, constitutional inflexibility, the inequity of a two-tiered tax increase and the subsequent drag on the economy. Watch for the special election enewsletter. It will contain more information on each of these items.
Supporters of this tax increase have a lot of money to spend, millions in fact, which they will do over the next month. They will tell us how small the tax is and hint at how great it will be for kids. In the end, it comes down to this: If you genuinely believe this huge tax increase will translate into better educated students support this; if not, don’t.
After studying the issue, we remain pro-education but were not convinced this will help, so we say “NO on Amendment 66.”