|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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com.
|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.”
|Tuesday, September 24, 2013|
|Government and People at Their Best|
The floods of 2013 were historic and devastating. It will take years and a lot of treasure to put right what Mother Nature rearranged.
Rescue operations are winding down and relief and recovery are now underway. I participated in a couple of sessions last week focused on getting the highway infrastructure rebuilt. State officials including the Governor’s office and the Department of transportation along with key federal agencies like FEMA, the SBA, Federal Transportation Administration were still assessing the damage and the needs and planning to get federal emergency dollars flowing as quickly as possible. Our Congressional delegation came together in a bi-partisan letter to ask the feds to lift the $100 million cap on emergency funding.
Several people including Loveland City Manager Bill Cahill strongly made the point that getting Highway 34 between Loveland and Estes Park is an economic imperative for Northern Colorado. This applies to Fort Collins, too. While the Fort Collins community was extremely fortunate relative to flood damage, we are most definitely not in the clear economically. Over 3 million people a year visit Rocky Mountain National Park. Of those coming from outside the region, many will put Fort Collins on their list of things to do while in the area. Why not drop in to Fort Collins to visit downtown and the breweries? However, with the main attraction now hard to access, we’ll feel the effects until the highway is rebuilt.
I can’t do justice to the personal side of what happened but hundreds of people did amazing things to protect lives and property and take care of displaced people. City officials in Loveland helped Larimer County do building inspections so people could safely get back into their damaged homes and businesses.School district employees rushed to save LaPorte Elementary school using their own tools and equipment and Jax Farm and Ranch opened in the middle of the night to help them. The United Way, the Red Cross, the Community Foundation, the Bohemian Foundation and others stepped up to provide direct help or funding. Larimer County Search and Rescue put people on the ground in remote parts of the county to find and help residents cutoff by the floods. And the men and women of the National Guard were genuine heroes, the first sign of hope for many people living through the worst time of their lives. Innumerable businesses and individuals donated time, money and resources to people who needed it. And so on and so on. Larimer County did itself proud.
Thanks to one and all.
If your business needs help or you know of someone’s business that does, you can find information here and http://www.fema.gov/disaster/4145
|Tuesday, September 17, 2013|
|Putting Northern Colorado Back on Its Feet|
The rugged, wild nature of Colorado is why most of us love living here, but it’s not without its risks as the wild fires of 2012 and the flooding now underway make abundantly clear.
Relief operations are underway concurrently with recovery efforts in places where it is safe and the water has receded. We’ve already been contacted by the Federal Emergency Management Administration and a representative from the Small Business Administration just left my office a few minutes ago. The United Way, Red Cross, Community Foundation and many other organizations and individuals have mobilized resources.
One of the big challenges immediately in front of us is repairing and rebuilding the transportation infrastructure. It will take years and tens of millions of dollars to put it all back together again. The chambers of commerce in our area are coordinating to make the case with area legislators and the Joint Budget Committee to release funds from the state’s General Fund Reserve and other sources to help our communities recover from this disaster.
Here are some sources of information that might be useful to you:
Help your neighbors as you can and let us know if you need help. My number is 970 482-3751 x 102.
|Tuesday, September 3, 2013|
|Money and the Mission|
|“As president your job is to give your professional opinion to the Board regarding what needs to get done and what it will cost.” That advice was given to me many years ago by a chamber of commerce colleague who was nearing the end of a very successful career. I had just hired him onto my staff at a chamber in the southeast. In the twilight of his career, he forgot more by breakfast than I even knew as a young executive. He had led large organizations and had helped communities become economically successful. He was the real deal, and I hired him to run our economic development program but got a sage and seasoned mentor in the bargain.|
As was his way, and in keeping with the nature of our relationship, he offered up unsolicited but helpful advice. At that time I was trying to influence an issue that required a substantial amount of money. It was important for the community, but we didn’t have the money, so he followed up his first offering with this homily: “Don’t shoehorn your dreams into your budget.”
Basically, he was saying that if it was important enough to do, the money would follow…if you made your case. In short, provide a plan, put a price tag on it and lead. At that point it would be up to the business community whether it was important enough to them to fund.
Over the next few months you’ll hear about the Chamber’s Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign. It’s a fund raising campaign, but its’ more than that. It is Chamber leaders saying ‘This is what needs to get done and this is how much it costs. Can you help us?’
During the summer the Chamber Board and staff pondered questions like ‘What do members value? What big issues would improve the area’s quality of life and economic prosperity? How can we make these things happen?’
The product of these musing is included in the Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign. Included are 20 events and services and three key strategic initiatives. The initiatives are bigger projects that impact community quality of life and the economy. The Jobs Initiative, the Stand Up for Business Initiative and the Improved Infrastructure Initiative focus on economic development, lobbying and improved public infrastructure, respectively.
In other words, money isn’t being raised just for the sake of raising money. Moving Fort Collins Forward! is about putting resources towards things that improve the livability of Fort Collins and the local economy.
Twenty of the community’s most prominent companies are fielding teams or underwriting the costs of the campaign. Altogether, over 60 volunteers will be raising $400,000 in 10 weeks.
They can use your help. To find out more how you can help, give me a call or click here.
|Tuesday, August 27, 2013|
|Income Tax Increase on Fall Ballot|
In November, Colorado voters will be asked to change the state constitution to increase the state income tax. The money would be dedicated to pre-k – 12 public education. The measure is called Initiative 22. If passed, it will provide an additional $1 billion annually for public education. The tax is not sunset meaning that it would last into perpetuity.
The current state income tax rate is 4.63%. The proposed tax hike has two tiers: income under $75,000 would be taxed at 5% and income over $75,000 would be taxed at 5.9%. Proponents of the tax increases are saying that this is only a 1.3% increase. Well, no, that’s not correct. Going from 4.63% to 5.9% rate is a 27% increase. One immediate concern for me is that many people earning above $75,000 are small business owners whose business income is taxed at the personal income tax rate. If the measure passes, many small companies will see a 27% increase in their state income taxes.
I sat in a session recently in which proponents of Initiative 22 made their case for the tax increases. We all want to support the education of children, right? And we understand that good schools are important to Colorado’s economic competitiveness. Yet, as I listened that day and have thought about the issue since then, I have many unanswered questions. Hopefully they will be addressed over the next couple of months. Among them are these:
- Colorado currently ranks 26th in the nation in expenditures per student, so why is this additional money needed? Specifically, what problems exist with public education in our state that require $1 billion more of expenditures per year?
- For $1 billion more per year what improvements can we expect in student performance? Asked another way, a decade from now after spending $10 billion more for public education than we are today, what improvements will taxpayers see in student graduation rates, test scores and graduates’ labor market competitiveness? At a glance, Initiative 22 looks like a lot more money for the same education results. If that’s not the case, supporters need to explain that.
- Or, is this tax increase largely about backfilling the state public employee retirement system, PERA?
- Why is Initiative 22 being built into the state constitution?
- Why the two-tiered income tax? Doesn’t the higher tier unfairly impact small businesses whose incomes are taxed at a personal rate? Why should they be expected to shoulder a disproportionately higher share of the cost of public education?
- Why has higher education has been left out of this tax measure? Doesn’t a large tax increase like this actually hurt the future funding prospects of higher education?
- How will this measure impact Poudre School District?
Sometime over the next month the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance – the joint state legislative committee of the Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland chambers of commerce and the economic development corporations for Larimer and Weld counties – will recommend a position to the boards of directors of its 5 partner entities. NCLA will be seeking answers to these and other questions.
If you have answers, questions or opinions on Initiative 22, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 970 482-3751 x 102.
|Tuesday, August 13, 2013|
|Fort Collins: Aspirational City?|
|According to Forbes magazine, the Fort Collins area is one of the best places in America for business and careers.|
The Forbes Best Places for Business and Careers list published in early August ranks the Fort Collins / Loveland metropolitan statistical area, as 7th best in the nation. Factors contributing to the score include ‘Cost of Business,’ ‘Job Growth,’ and ‘Education.’ We rank 78, 19 and 9, respectively, out of 200 cities. Other Colorado cities making the list include Denver (#6), Boulder (#26), Colorado Springs (#44) and Greeley (#51).
Then there is the story on TheDailyBeast.com by Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox titled Hot U.S. Cities That Offer Both Jobs and Culture Are Mostly Southern and Modest Sized. The Fort Collins area did not make this particular list, which includes, in this order, Austin, New Orleans, Houston, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, Nashville, Richmond VA, Washington DC, San Antonio, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Dallas, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Charlotte NC and Columbus OH.
Kotkin and Cox used 3 broad factors to determine their cities with an emphasis on economics. They include economy (50 percent), quality of life (25 percent) and demographics (25 percent). They write “…we believe aspirational cities reflect a kind of urban arbitrage, where people look for those places that provide not just economic and cultural opportunity but a cost structure that allows them to enjoy their success to the fullest extent.”
What to make of these two lists? Well, let’s begin with what I call the ‘analytical subjectivity’ used to compile most of these kinds of lists. Said another way, the data used and interpreted by the compilers depends on the judgment of the compilers and what they decide to include and how they weight the factors.
We’ll make great use of the Forbes Best Places for Business and Careers ranking to market the community.
However, we won’t dismiss the Hot U.S. Cities list outright because it does place a strong emphasis on economic factors and affordability. Both the economy and affordability have been key messages that the Chamber has shared with city government officials in recent years. Making a great community by spending a lot of money on quality of life amenities is a good investment only if it adds to the community’s economic competitiveness. In part that means remaining affordable to the bright young talent that will drive the success of our primary employers in the years ahead.
|Tuesday, July 30, 2013|
|Chamber Leading Dialogue on Jobs|
Here are some numbers for you to ponder:
- The Fort Collins area is 7th in the nation in under-employment.
- Research has shown that 10 – 15 percent of jobs in a community disappear annually due to the creative destruction process inherent in the free enterprise system.
- 3 billion people around the world want a good-paying job but only 1.2 billion such jobs exist.
- On a list of 18 community issues, the top three most important things to Fort Collins residents according to a recent poll are creating more quality jobs in Fort Collins, improving the quality of public education and attraction of major employers to Fort Collins.
As one of the community’s biggest cheerleaders, I love bragging about the Fort Collins area. Things are certainly going our way on many fronts. That doesn’t mean that we can afford to be complacent, which is the point of the top three numbers listed above. The short version is that we aren’t creating enough good-paying jobs, we have to run fast just to keep up and the competition for our jobs is fierce.
Clearly the residents of Fort Collins understand all that based on their strong support for economic development.
The Chamber is holding a ‘Future of Jobs’ summit tomorrow morning at Hilton Fort Collins to discuss the latest on the economy and efforts to create more jobs. The Coloradoan editorial board wrote about it on Sunday as you can see here and below. We have a lot of work to do on the job creation front, and the Coloradoan is right when they say we can’t rest on our laurels.
I hope to see you there tomorrow.
|Tuesday, July 23, 2013|
|Maps that Define America|
In keeping with the varying and sometimes eclectic nature of things I write in this space, here is a series of interesting maps from Business Insider.
NFL loyalties? According to one map, the Denver Broncos have the largest geographic area.
Mean center of population of the U.S.? It has migrated from Maryland in 1790 to south central Missouri.
One map shows countries that are of similar size to states. Colorado is comparable to New Zealand and New Mexico and Poland are of comparable size.
Colorado's most recognizable brand is Coors, whereas Florida's is, well....Hooters.
|Tuesday, July 16, 2013|
|9 Things Local Business Leaders are Thinking About|
Recently, I completed a round of small group and individual discussions with business leaders in Fort Collins to determine what was on their minds relative to the community. Here’s a list of some of the more frequently mentioned issues:
- Are we competitive as a community? Successful businesspeople are successful because they take a clear-eyed look at facts and act on them. When applying that to the community, it’s not always clear how we’re doing. City officials tell us that time in the development review process and business costs are competitive, even cheap. Anecdotally, we hear another story. That’s just one example. The point being raised is that it would be advisable if we moved past rhetoric and took a hard look at how Fort Collins really stacks up. In short, do a competitive analysis.
- What will happen when the Boomers bail out of the workforce? 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day in America When they retire, they take decades of experience with them. Companies are looking ahead trying to understand what that means to their ability to service their clients and customers. One idea was for the Chamber to partner with other groups to study the issue in more detail.
- What is happening to the area’s high tech sector? We have just reached an inflection point where mobile computing is now more prominent than desktop computing. How does that impact the high tech sector of our economy? Are we well-positioned? Not well-positioned? There was interest expressed in understanding this better.
- The City Council is a concern because of rhetoric and policies that are anti-business. The big question is ‘What is going to happen two years from now during the next election?’ This was a universal concern. Business leaders cited examples of how long it takes to get things done with city government and foresee how that could get dramatically worse. There was a sense of relief that the community was able to retain Woodward in spite of a challenging business environment.
- Expand I-25 to Longmont. One person said, “I-25 is a dangerous mess. We all go south, we all use I-25.” Travel times to points south including Denver InternationalAirport were cited many times as a growing issue.
- Water development and storage is becoming a critical issue. One businessperson said it well: “Boy, if the recent droughts and fires aren’t a wakeup call about how vulnerable our water supply is then I don’t know what is. We have a problem.”
- Fix the airport. While not as commonly mentioned as some of the other issues, when the airport came up it was mentioned with some vigor. The Fort Collins-Loveland Airport is an important part of the transportation system of Northern Colorado. Loss of the airport’s only commercial carrier makes it harder to maintain and improve the airport.
- Fund the street system. Unlike some communities, Fort Collins has done a good job of getting voter support to improve and maintain its street system. What happens when existing taxes dedicated to transportation expire?
- Tell the business story and hold elected officials accountable. The Chamber launched a program earlier this year called Fort Collins Works (www.FortCollinsWorks.com). It has served as a tool to advance the business community’s economic vision for the community and provide basic tools for explaining economic development and the importance of primary employers. Fort Collins Works received strong praise during my interviews. Expanding it was encouraged, especially the idea of enhancing the City Council Scorecard to make people aware of how elected officials are doing on job creation.
Many more things were discussed but the above were some of the more prominently mentioned issues. As the Chamber is preparing to launch its 2013 Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign, some of the above-mentioned items will be included.
|Tuesday, July 9, 2013|
|What’s On Horizon for Local Economy?|
Would you rather be living and working in Fort Collins or Detroit? While the once mighty ‘Motor City’ continues to implode, the gods continue to smile down on the ‘Choice City’ of Fort Collins. Clearly different choices by the communities are leading to different results.
So, what is going on in the greater Fort Collins economy and how do we keep our positive momentum? Are there any dark clouds on the horizon? These and similar topics will be covered at the second annual Future of Jobs summit coming up on the morning of July 31 at Hilton Fort Collins.
It’s a ‘don’t miss’ event for anyone interested in the economic future of the area. To learn more and register for the event go to the Chamber’s home page, www.FortCollinsChamber.com or click here.
|Tuesday, July 2, 2013|
|Happy Independence Day|
|We live in arguably the greatest nation in the history of the world. That may sound like over-the-top patriotic boosterism during this Independence Day week, but the facts are on my side. Statistically, Americans are the most innovative and productive people on earth and among the most free.|
My hopes for you over Independence Day are that you’ll unplug from the negative news, thank a veteran or current member of the armed services for their service, hug and enjoy your loved ones and be safe.
And maybe reflect upon what it means to be an American. The values and institutions that make us the ‘beacon on the hill’ are worth celebrating and preserving.
|Tuesday, June 25, 2013|
How much control do we have as a community to create a vibrant local economy? As I noted before, there is a long list of issues and trends that can impact us that are beyond our control.
Fortunately, through the deliberate process of economic development, we can do a great deal to influence private sector investment in our area. We outline many of those actions at www.FortCollinsWorks.com.
One of the things we can do in our smart university town is ‘grow our own,’ meaning foster start-up companies. All cities can do this, of course, but we have a strong set of attributes and assets that makes it more likely in a place like Fort Collins.
One of those assets is the Rocky Mountain Innosphere, which is located on Vine Drive. The Innosphere is a business incubator. Its mission is to “accelerate the success of high-impact scientific and technology startup companies and promote the development of a regional entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northern Colorado.” Fancy words for ‘grow our own.’
While challenging to do, the simple concept is to identify promising start-up companies and provide the support they need through their early days. Not all of them make it and not all of the companies that do survive will become the next Apple. However, the support through the Innosphere improves their chances.
At this time, there are 34 companies in the Innosphere.
The Chamber’s Red Carpet Committee just held an event at the Innosphere this morning to honor them as Business of the Month. It was a reminder to me about what a great asset the Innosphere is for Northern Colorado. The Innosphere doesn’t guarantee that we’ll have a vibrant economy in the years ahead but it does let us focus on our own assets and the things we can control.
To learn more about the Rocky Mountain Innosphere go to www.rmi2.org.
|Tuesday, June 11, 2013|
|A New Chamber Service to Help You Find Talent|
The Chamber has launched a great new service to help you find talent for your company. Some of our employers have expressed an interest in hiring interns to help them on a temporary basis or to identify potential future employees. To help meet that need the Chamber is offering a matching service that allows both students seeking internships and companies seeking interns to find each other. Don’t know how to use interns? No problem. Resources are available to explain how to run effective internship programs. You can find the link on the Chamber’s front page at www.FortCollinsChamber.com or you can go here .
|Tuesday, June 4, 2013|
|Coping with Street Construction|
Good news, bad news. The good news is that Fort Collins has a lot of money to put towards street maintenance and construction projects. The bad news is that it can be hard to get around town and your business can be harmed if access is cut off.
Here are a few things you can do.
|Tuesday, May 28, 2013|
|A Summer Reading List (Or, Dude, You Need to Lighten Up)|
Summer! Finally! Friends, travel, backyard cookouts, hikes, warm weather and…summer reading.
As a voracious reader, I’m often asked what I’m reading. The short answer is ‘lots of stuff.’ I have wide-ranging interests, but my current list runs in the direction of economics, personal and professional development and history. For many people a list like that would be a summer bummer, but I’m pretty jazzed. So, since you asked, here are a dozen books I’m reading.