Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Potpourri of Topics

A lot of things are happening in our area. Rather than restricting myself to one topic this week, here are some of the things on my mind.

  • How about those Rams?! What a fun game on Saturday with the Colorado State University football team traveling to Boston and beating favored Boston College 24-21. Unlike some of my "Xs" and "Os" friends that love to dissect all of the plays, what I find fascinating is the mental toughness that Coach Jim McElwain is teaching his players. CSU's victory over Washington State in December's New Mexico Bowl, the first game of the season against University of Colorado and now the Boston College win are all attributable to resilience. They prepare right, they don't make excuses and they don't hang their heads. Those are pretty good life lessons, wouldn't you agree?
  • Speaking of CSU athletics, CSU President Tony Frank's announcement last week that the university had not met the $110M fund raising goal for the proposed on-campus football / multipurpose stadium was interesting on several levels. Securing $50M in private sector pledges is astonishing. That is a remarkable statement of support. But, of course, $50M isn't $110M, so opponents of the stadium want to call it a failure, end of discussion. While some leaders might have agreed with that just to make the issue go away, Dr. Frank's approach of considering a range of options was the appropriate response. What an interesting dilemma he needs to sort through: lots of financial support but not enough to proceed as envisioned; an aging existing stadium with high maintenance and repair costs but no outside funding; diminishing state financial support of the university but a chance to use a reinvigorated athletics program to help brand the university to attract students and alumni support. As the leader of the institution, he has a duty to put the university in a position to be successful over the long-term. It will be an interested couple of months.
  • Speaking of dilemmas, the City Council is in a tough spot relative to the bag fee. As you'll recall, this summer, the Council passed an ordinance mandating grocery stores and most area retailers collect a fee on all disposable bags. A group of citizens collected signatures to force the Council to overturn the ordinance or to place the measure on the ballot in a special election or at the next regularly scheduled election, which would be next April. Having this on the ballot next April while the Council is electing new Council members and asking voters to approve a tax for capital investments (streets, public buildings, etc.) would be a disaster.
  • Elections are upon us and the Chamber is making recommendations on various ballot issues. You will find that highlighted elsewhere in this publication and on the Chamber website.
Posted by: David May @ 2:00:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Update on Widening of I-25

I've periodically updated you on efforts to secure the $965M necessary to widen I-25 from Highway 14 (Mulberry Road in Fort Collins) to Highway 66 just north of Longmont to 3 lanes each way.

The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce is working on this project with the Greeley and Loveland Chambers through the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance. We have created an initiative called the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance.

This is a long-term project in a resource-constrained environment. It will take consistent, persistent lobbying effort to patch together various funding sources.

Short-term goals of the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance include: 

  • Get the Alliance fully-operational – leaders in place, funding set
  • Convince the 13-member government coalition (I-25 Coalition) to reach agreement that keeps $35M of designated state funding in Northern Colorado on the portion of the interstate that needs widened
  • Support CDOT if it applies for federal Presidential Challenge and Resilience and Recovery grants
  • Protect SB-228 transportation funding during 2015 Legislative Session
  • Determine whether federal funding is available through freight corridor or high priority corridor designations
  • Convince CDOT to make an operational change to move trucks into the right-hand lane of southbound I-25 on the Berthoud Hill

Here's the direct lobbying the Fix North I-25 Alliance has done so far this year:

  • Planning to attend board meeting of Colorado High Performance Transportation Enterprise (Sept 17)
  • Contacted the 13 local governments in group called I-25 Coalition to press them to develop united plan for North I-25 expansion (Sept 5)
  • Met with Governor John Hickenlooper and briefed him on situation on North I-25 (Aug 28)
  • Met with CDOT Director Don Hunt to press him to support widening of North I-25(Aug 28)
  • Briefed U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (Aug 7)
  • Lobbied U.S. Congressman Cory Gardner (Aug 6)
  • Met with CDOT Region 4 officials including Commissioner Kathy Gilliland and CDOT Director Johnny Olson (July 31)
  • Met with Gubernatorial Candidate Bob Beauprez (July 17)
  • Testified to U.S. Congressman Bill Shuster, Chair of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (July 1)
  • Met with Former CDOT Director Tom Norton for background information on highway funding (June 11)
  • Lobbied U.S. Congressman Jared Polis (spring) who declared widening of I-25 the top transportation project in his district
  • Attended monthly meetings of government I-25 Coalition (13 county and local governments that touch North I-25)

We are raising money for our lobbying effort. If you're interested in helping out, contact me at davidmay@fcchamber.org or 970 482-3751 x 102. 

Posted by: David May @ 2:00:00 pm  Comments (1)Read More»»
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Fix I-25, Good-Paying Jobs, Stand Up for Biz
At its most fundamental, your chamber of commerce is a tool for you to 1) market your company, and 2) affect issues that impact the local economy.

To those broad ends, the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce annually conducts the Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign. The number goals for this year's campaign are 100 new members and $550,000 of financial support.

More specifically, there are 21 programs up for sponsorship in this year's campaign. Many of them great avenues for marketing your company. You can find information about them here.

Then there are three big initiatives focused on impacting the local economy. The first is the Fix North I-25 Initiative. I-25 is a mess and is getting rapidly worse. It will take a big, sustained lobbying effort to secure the $965M necessary to widen the interstate to three lanes between Highway 14 and Highway 66. Learn more here.

The second big initiative is Strong Economy Initiative. The key program here is the Fort Collins Works program. While it's great to be Northern Colorado and especially Fort Collins, we still rank 7th in the nation in under-employment. Even so, some politicians are calling for less support of economic development. Learn more here.

The third big initiative is the Stand Up for Business Initiative. The quality of government matters, as does the quality of elected officials making decisions. This initiative is about keeping a strong lobbying and political program in place to represent the business perspective. Learn more here.

The final thing I wanted to mention is re-growing the Chamber's membership base. The Great Recession hurt all membership-based associations. The Chamber has replaced many of the lost memberships but we'd like to re-grow the membership to over 1200 members. We're at 1087 today and the campaign goal of 100 gets us close. If you know of someone who should be a member, send them here or have them contact Joe Anderson on our team at janderson@fcchamber.org or at (970) 482-3746.
Posted by: David May @ 2:00:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Bag Fee Nonsense
The City Council, after a tortured, convoluted discussion last week, passed an ordinance mandating that you charge your customers for plastic bags.

It is an example of bad policy and horrible governance.

The stated reason for this heavy-handed policy is that plastic bags are bad for the environment. Specifically, we're told that our precious landfill space is being filled up with disposable bags. But stop and think about that for a minute. How much space does a wadded up plastic grocery bag really take? I'm guessing the millions of grocery bags in question could be actually be compressed into the modest 2,350 cubic foot office I'm now sitting in. For a multi-use product that provides so much convenience to consumers that is a pretty small price to pay.

No, the real reason you will need to charge your customers 5 cents for a plastic bag starting next April is social engineering. We're the lab rats in a social conditioning exercise. Lest you think I'm off my nut and going anti-government conspiracy theorist on you, a City official actually admitted this before the Economic Advisory Commission earlier this month. In essence she said, if we can get you to do this, we can get you to do other things.

Got that? Local government is imposing itself between you and your customer to get the citizenry learned-up proper for the next thing they're scheming up in the bowels of city hall.

Compounding bad policy was a bad decision-making process. The ordinance that Council adopted was not vetted and discussed by the public, as the Coloradoan's Erin Stephenson explains here. She calls it a 'bait and switch.'

To learn more about the ordinance, go here.

The people voting for this legislation were Bob Overbeck, Lisa Poppaw, Gino Campana, Ross Cunniff, and Gerry Horak.

It's hard to say which is more irritating: the unnecessary law or the way in which it was imposed.
Posted by: David May @ 2:00:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
PSD On Right Path
This past weekend the Coloradoan ran a front page story about the Poudre School District's Superintendent Sandra Smyser and how she's doing one year into her tenure. On behalf of the Chamber, I was interviewed for the story. You can find my answers here. The short version is that we think Dr. Smyser is a great addition to the community and that the school district is on the right path. A challenge for all superintendents, of course, is staying in touch with employers to remain sensitive to what graduates are facing in the workplace. In that regard, Dr. Smyser and the School Board seem to be inclined to seek input. Anyway, as a new school year starts, we have reason to be optimistic about the direction of the school district.
Posted by: David May @ 8:00:00 am  Comments (0)Read More»»
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Free Lunch on Friday
Whoever said there's no such thing as a free lunch never heard about "Fridays at the Chamber!"

For the second summer in a row, on select Fridays at lunch, the Chamber does a cookout on its patio. The price is (drum roll please)....FREE! Yep, "Fridays at the Chamber" are free for Chamber members. And, there are no programs and presentations. The whole gathering consists of people enjoying hotdogs, hamburgers and watermelon while chatting with friends and meeting new people. The timing is flexible, too. Stop in anytime between 11:30 and 1:00.

"Fridays at the Chamber" is made possible by generous sponsors including your benefactor this week, Advantage DataSystems Corporation

The next "Fridays at the Chamber" cookout is this Friday August 8, 11:30 - 1:00. You can register by going here.

Plan to stop on Friday.
Posted by: David May @ 3:00:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Community Investment or Just a Wish List?
For decades residents of Fort Collins have elected to tax themselves to pay for public investments they wanted to improve their community.

It started in 1973 with a ballot measure popularly known as "Building Tomorrow Today." Over the decades that followed, there has been a series of tax measures on the ballot with a specific list of proposed community projects and a tax that sunsets after a specific period of time. You should review the list of tax measures and the projects they funded, which you can find here. It's a remarkable list and a great example of enlightened self-governance. This approach has helped make Fort Collins one of America's most livable places.

The magic of the process is that it is voluntary taxation to accomplish important things over a specific period of time. City officials - electeds and staff - have honored the trust by doing what voters approved. (One exception would be Prospect between Prospect Parkway just east of Timberline and I-25. It was to be widened to 4 lanes. Instead, it remains only two lanes but with more turn lanes.)

The latest iteration of this series of tax measures was called "Building on Basics." Known as BOB, the tax is due to expire December 31, 2015. The imminent sunsetting of this tax has set a planning process in motion at City Hall to identify the next set of projects to propose to voters next April.

Now is the time to begin tuning in to the process. The reason is because wants substantially exceed needs as everybody adds their projects to the list. At this point the 'wants' list is approximately $421M to $456M (capital cost only) and $484M to $584M when 10 years of operations and maintenance are added. This far exceeds the projected revenue of $80 million over 10 years.

The risk is that pet projects or things that are routine will dominate the list instead of things that are genuine investments in the livability of the community.

The Chamber has not offered a specific list at this point in the process because it's still early but we have a bias towards transportation mobility. In particular, street projects that improve traffic flow should be given priority.

If you want to see the larger list as it now stands, go here and their descriptions here.

The City Council will be taking this issue up at a special retreat on Saturday, October 11 (location and time to be determined).
Posted by: David May @ 1:00:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
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 cityleaders@fcgov.com.
Posted by: David May @ 2:00:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
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.

Posted by: David May @ 2:00:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
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:

  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. Illinois
  4. Nebraska
  5. Florida
  6. New Mexico
  7. Kansas
  8. Minnesota
  9. Arizona
  10. Wyoming
  11. Maryland
  12. New York

The top cities from outside of Colorado sending visitors were:

  1. Los Angeles
  2. Chicago
  3. Albuquerque-Santa Fe
  4. Houston
  5. San Diego
  6. Phoenix
  7. Dallas-Ft. Worth
  8. Minneapolis-St. Paul
  9. 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/.

Posted by: David May @ 10:00:00 am  Comments (0)Read More»»
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. 
Posted by: David May @ 2:00:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
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 davidmay@fcchamber.org or 970 482-3751 x 102.

Posted by: Unknown @ 3:00:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
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 davidmay@fcchamber.org.
Posted by: David May @ 1:00:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
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.

Happy reading!

Posted by: David May @ 9:00:00 am  Comments (0)Read More»»
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
Posted by: David May @ 2:00:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
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. 

Posted by: David May @ 1:00:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
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.

Posted by: David May @ 11:00:00 am  Comments (0)Read More»»
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.
Posted by: David May @ 10:00:00 am  Comments (0)Read More»»
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 davidmay@fcchamber.org.

Coloradoan Article: Fix north I-25 by 2025

Fix North I-25 Guiding Principles DRAFT

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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 kmedina@fcchamber.org. She will be getting information as it becomes available.

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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.
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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.
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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

 

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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.

Posted by: David May @ 3:00:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
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. 

Posted by: David May @ 8:00:00 am  Comments (0)Read More»»
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 LastGood 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. 
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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 davidmay@fcchamber.org. I also encourage you to visit the City Clerk’s website here to learn more about city elections. 

Posted by: David May @ 3:30:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
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 ColoradoThe 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.
Posted by: David May @ 2:00:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Lobby for funding to widen I-25 by launching an I-25 business coalition.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
Posted by: David May @ 11:30:00 am  Comments (0)Read More»»
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.

Why?

Our community needs its businesses to flourish.
Posted by: David May @ 1:00:00 pm  Comments (0)Read More»»
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