During a recent conversation with primary employers, one of them said “Certainty is our new religion now.” This statement received universal agreement.
We were talking about how businesses are approaching all decisions but especially the siting of new facilities. The point of this saying is that in the current political and economic environment companies won’t take unnecessary risks. Business decision-makers are operating in extremely tight decision windows and won’t accept risks, especially from slow moving or unfriendly governments. Companies need to know that a decision will get made in a timely manner with a minimum of political drama. If they can’t get that in one locale, they’ll drop that community from the list and move on.
So, to be competitive at attracting and keeping base employers, communities must provide certainty and speed.
How are we doing in Fort Collins?
The City of Fort Collins has done a nice job on community development but has been somewhat indifferent about making a sound business case for why primary employers should be here. That shows up in political rhetoric and policies.
If a business wants to locate or expand here, official city policy in City Plan and other codes is to make companies pay for the privilege. If we really want to attract and retain primary companies with good-paying base jobs we would be wise to rethink that. Making them pay to widen roads, fix interchanges, extend utilities, and pay a long list of fees sends the message that they’re a liability instead of the highly desirable job-creating engines that they are. We should go out of our way to lower barriers for them to invest and create jobs here.
There are a lot of reasons for a company to come here – community reputation for good quality of life, good schools, the vibrancy of a college town, a core of existing primary employers, and great health care, to name some.
Possible obstacles? The government decision processes that are too slow and too uncertain. This is risk that companies will not accept when they have other viable options. Then add the fact that City policies push many costs and requirements onto business and we end up sending the wrong message.
Speed and certainty are the new gold standard for successful community job creation.