|Tuesday, March 24, 2015|
|Why Elections Matter|
Two weeks from today is Election Day in Fort Collins. Most Fort Collins voters received their mail-in ballots in the mail yesterday.
All elections are important because 7 elected representatives are setting public policy that impacts the rest of us including business. We’ve already covered elections with you in previous Chamber SmartBrief Weekly e-newsletters. You can find information here, here, here, here and here.
Why the elections matter is what I want touch on briefly. Let me break the topics down into two broad categories: substantive issues and civility.
Regarding the first, there are big issues coming our way:
- The City Council has adopted climate action plan goals that are, to be charitable, “aspirational.” They are not achievable but a full-bore attempt to implement them would drive utility rates, real estate and rents through the roof. The new Council will need to figure out a reasonable plan or risk economic damage.
- The relationship with Colorado State University is important and has been strained over the university’s decision to site its stadium on the main campus. The next Council will need to maintain that relationship while defending the interests of taxpayers relative to mitigating negative impacts of the new facility.
- Water development decisions are on the horizon. The next Council will make the final decision on whether or not to expand Halligan Reservoir.
- If the tax measures that are on the ballot pass (Ballot Issue 1 is the extension of a sales tax for public capital projects; Ballot Issue 2 is the extension of a tax for street maintenance), the new Council will oversee their implementation. If they fail, the Council will be scrambling to rebuild the budget.
- Housing affordability is a growing issue. If the election goes one way, the Council may be inclined to pare back some fees and restrictions that drive up costs. If it goes the other direction, expect government-mandated ‘solutions.’
- The economy is relatively strong compared to many places. Challenges do exist, however, relative to replacing good paying jobs lost in the Great Recession. We rank 7th in the nation in under-employment, so resting on our laurels is not a good option.
- An alternative to a strong private economy is a mandate-centric economy. Ideas like local minimum wages or living wages have been whispered. Depending on the outcome of the election, they would remain whispers or get pushed to the front of the community agenda.
- Homelessness is a growing concern. The next Council will have to deal with some contentious policy options.
The second category I mentioned is civility. The new City Council will need to work hard to renew the sense of general goodwill that is part of Fort Collins’ natural personality. The long tussle over the on-campus stadium has become personal and unpleasant.
Three weeks from today a new City Council will be sworn in. They have big work in front of them. That’s why elections matter.
|Tuesday, March 17, 2015|
|Ballot Issue # 2 = Good Streets Fort Collins|
|Since we recycle here at the Chamber, I’m also going to recycle one of my blog posts! In late January I wrote about the wisdom of renewing the ¼ cent tax that is used to maintain Fort Collins streets. You can find it here. |
The short version is that about 30 years ago Fort Collins residents decided to start taking care of their streets with a dedicated tax. The happy result is that we have good streets AND have saved a ton of money because they have been repaired before they had to be completely rebuilt.
This weekend Fort Collins registered voters will be getting their mail-in ballots in the mail. Ballot Issue No. 2 calls for the renewal of the ¼ cent tax for 10 years. The Chamber is behind this measure and encourage you to support it. You’ll basically be spending 25cents on a $100 purchase. Over 10 years that will add up to around $70M to keep streets in good shape.
Find out more at www.GoodStreetsFortCollins.com.
|Tuesday, March 10, 2015|
|Election offers choice between progress, decline|
Fort Collins voters will receive their ballots for the upcoming municipal elections in the mail in 10 days or so. With two tax proposals and the city council races, we will have the clearest choices we’ve had in years between maintaining community momentum and slamming on the brakes.
There are six ballot issues, four of which would make beneficial amendments to the city charter.
Another, Ballot Question 1, would extend for a period of 10 years the 0.25 percent sales and use tax used for community capital improvements. You can find information about the measure and a list of the projects that would be funded at www.fortcollinsstayinggreat.org.
To my knowledge, there is no organized opposition to the measure. The roots for this type of capital improvements plan go back to 1973. Since that time, voters have approved such a plan every decade or so.
My organization, the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce, supports Ballot Question 1.
Ballot Question 2 would extend for a period of 10 years the 0.25 percent sales and use tax used for street maintenance. Basically, for 25 cents on a $100 purchase, voters ensure that the public’s biggest capital investment, the streets system, is properly maintained.
Voters have been smart with this program in that keeping streets in good repair costs between six to eight times less than a complete rebuild. Ballot Question 2 is the renewal of an existing tax, one that dates back to the mid-1980s.
Information can be found at www.goodstreetsfortcollins.com. The campaign is being led by Citizens for a Sustainable Economy, a Chamber-initiated nonprofit. The Chamber supports Ballot Question 2.
Four of the seven City Council seats are up for election. Specifically, there are elections for mayor and three city council races including Districts 2 (east-central Fort Collins), 4 (southwest Fort Collins) and 6 (northwest Fort Collins). In the past six elections there has been an average of 10 candidates on the ballot. This year there are nine.
There is a strong contrast between candidates that are problem solvers and the “aginners” — those running against change and progress.
Don’t like population growth? Kill jobs by opposing the expansion or relocation of companies like Woodward. Don’t like traffic congestion? Oppose street projects like Lincoln Avenue anyway. Don’t like the proposed on-campus Colorado State University stadium? Make sure city government puts up as many obstacles as possible. And so it goes.
Missing in all of that are real solutions to community challenges such as creating good-paying jobs.
Fortunately there are some experienced problem-solvers running for election who would offer genuine community leadership. Three of them have a combined 30 years of experience on the City Council and were repeatedly re-elected by voters.
I invite you to visit www.fortcollinschamber.com for the Chamber’s endorsements. You can also read candidate questionnaires and watch videos of their interviews.
This is a move-forward or move-backward election for the community. Passing Ballot Questions 1 and 2 and electing problem-solvers to the city council would move Fort Collins forward.
Column originally published by The Fort Collins Coloradoan March 6, 2015
|Tuesday, March 3, 2015|
|Chamber Volunteers are Awesome|
Last Wednesday night 575 people gathered at the Hilton for the Chamber’s Annual Dinner. It’s a celebration of the great things going on in the greater Fort Collins area and a chance to honor some people who have made a big contribution to the Chamber’s success. Regarding the latter, we honored:
- outgoing Chair Chris Otto,
- retiring Directors Mike Freeman, Hank Gardner, John Carroll, and David Zwisler
- Young Professional of the Year Angie Penland
- Volunteer of the Year Pete Gazlay
- Lifetime Member Ralph Waldo
- and the prestigious Collins Award went to the Dellenbach family.
Congratulations to one and all! Below are the remarks made about each honoree.
Outgoing Chair Chris Otto, EKS&H – Remarks by Chamber President David May
“It’s my honor to introduce our 2014 Chairman of the Board, Chris Otto. Chris is an audit partner with the accounting and business solutions firm, EKS&H.
Without stealing Chris’ thunder, let me simply say that under his leadership the Chamber had a very good year. We grew financially and added members and we had a big impact on big issues like securing funding for I-25.
Chris has been great to work with. For those of you who may not know him, he is a very bright and thoughtful guy. Over the past 5 years as Treasurer, on the Executive Committee and as Chairman he has helped guide us forward strategically and financially.
Depending on the year and what is happening in the community, sometimes the Chair needs to elevate his or her public profile. That happened last year. While it’s my job to catch the flack on controversial things, Chris readily stepped into the breach when situations required it.
One of the other great attributes Chris brought as Chair was as a connector who is always looking to find areas of collaboration with other community groups.
Chris is a Kansas Jayhawk, with degrees in Accounting and German. He and wife Julie are the proud parents of Paige and Blake
To Chris’ family and the team at EKS&H, thank you for sharing him with us.
Chris has taught me that cash flow is king and that accountants are cool!
Chris, on behalf of the Board, Staff and our members, it’s my honor to present to you this plaque for your service as Chairman of the Board.”
Young Professional of the Year, Angie Penland, First National Bank
Annually the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes a Young Professional of the Year Award. Established in 2008 to support upcoming leaders in the community and to encourage greater involvement from young business professionals in Northern Colorado, the program continues to see nominations of amazing young professionals in Fort Collins. Eighteen applicants were considered for the 2014 award.
The 2014 award recipient was chosen for her career success, her participation in professional development activities and her community involvement as well as her future aspirations within the local community. The award recipient is being recognized tonight at the Chamber Annual Dinner.
The 2014 Young Professional of the Year Angela Penland!
Angie is the VP of Branch Banking for First National Bank of Omaha. In that role she leads a team of bankers and tellers at the Oak Branch to ensure the branch is profitable and contributes to company goals.
Angie is a graduate of Leadership Fort Collins and serves as the Board Chair for the Larimer Humane Society Board of Directors. She is also a volunteer with the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign and is a strategic project advisor for the Graduate School of Banking.
When asked what she hopes to accomplish for the Fort Collins area throughout her career, Angie says: "My goal is to continue to help the people and businesses in our community. There is strength in numbers and the more we can instill each other with a sense of community responsibility, the more manpower we will have to address the issues facing us.”
Retiring Board Directors
“The Chamber Board of Directors includes 27 members of our community. They serve terms ranging from one to three years. Tonight we recognize and thank four of our Directors that are leaving the board. They have provided great leadership and service to our community.
They are Mike Freeman, Innosphere; Hank Gardner, CSU; John Carroll, Ed Carroll Motor Company and David Zwisler, Ogletree Deakins. John Carroll receives special thanks this evening for doing an outstanding job serving on the Chamber Board, the Executive Committee and for serving as our 2013 Chair of the board.
Thank you for investing your time and energy in the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce.”
Volunteer of the Year – Remarks by Chamber President David May
“Each year we honor someone who has made a significant volunteer contribution to our organization by naming a Volunteer of the Year. We are fortunate to have so many great people active with the Chamber that it’s always difficult for us to choose between them.
This year’s Volunteer of the Year represents the incredible gift of time, talent, energy and support that Chamber volunteers share with us. This person was vital to our success in 2014.
He was raised in Greeley, served on the Fort Collins police force and while his company does business all over Northern Colorado, it is based in Loveland
Our Volunteer of the Year serves on our Local Legislative Affairs Committee, which he chairs. He represents the Loveland Chamber on the board of the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, he serves on the Steering Committee of the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance and is a founding member of Citizens for a Sustainable Economy.
Our honoree is the owner of the commercial cleaning service, Total Facility Care.
Our 2014 Volunteer of the Year is …Pete Gazlay!”
Lifetime Member – Remarks by Chris Otto and Yvonne Myers
“This first is a brand new award for the Chamber. It is a lifetime achievement award - given to a member of our organization that has dedicated a lifetime to the success of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce. We are honored to present this first ever Lifetime Membership to Ralph Waldo.
Ralph, a retired Realtor with The Group, has shared his time and talent with the Chamber in many forms including serving on the Board of Directors, on the Local Legislative Affairs Committee, the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, Leadership Fort Collins and the list goes on. Without his years of leadership and energy, we would not be the organization we are today. Thank you Ralph Waldo for a lifetime of service!”
Collins Award – Remarks by Chris Otto and Yvonne Myers
“Our final presentation of the evening is the prestigious Collins Award. The Collins Award recognizes an individual’s or organization’s long-standing contribution to the community. The first Collins Award was presented in 1977. Since then, winners have included such luminaries as Larry Kendall, Tom Gleason, Gene Markley, Bohemian Companies, Doug Hutchinson and Rulon Stacey.
We honor our Collins Award winners with an original painting of a scene of one of their facilities. The painting is by local artist Amelia Caruso.
Tonight’s award goes to an individual that has provided significant leadership to our community and our Chamber.
We want to share some of our honoree’s background with you.
For nearly 50 years, “Do the right thing. Exceed expectations. Make a Difference” are the words Dellenbach Motors operates by everyday. Whether selling new or used cars and trucks, or service, parts and body shop repairs.
In 1965 R.W. Dellenbach along with his wife, Patricia and their large family of 11 children moved to Fort Collins to purchase the Chevrolet franchise. Originally, Poudre Valley Motors was located on North College Ave. As the business began to expand it was clear a larger location was necessary. After a few years, the dealership built a new facility at its current location on South College Ave. in 1971 with the anticipation Fort Collins was growing south.
The new location also brought a new name: Dellenbach Chevrolet. In 1996, the Dellenbach family purchased the Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Subaru franchises, which were located one block south. Dellenbach Motors now was operating 4 franchises and occupying a majority of one full city block in Midtown Fort Collins.
The most prestigious honor a new car deal can receive is the “Time Dealer of the Year” award. In 1986 R.W. Dellenbach received the honor because of his commitment to both customers and employees.
While growing up, most of R.W. and Patricia’s 11 children worked at the dealership in some capacity in every department. In 2008 R.W. passed away and to this day, seven of the Dellenbach children and ten grandchildren have continued their careers within the dealership. It truly is a family-owned and operated business that has the same values and ethics that was started so many years ago. Alongside the family, there are over 120 fulltime employees.
It was not a coincidence that R.W. and Patricia moved to Fort Collins all those years ago. They realized it was a close-knit community with good schools and the perfect place to raise their family.
The Dellenbach family has a history of giving back to the Fort Collins community in numerous ways. For more than 25 years Dellenbach Motors has partnered with the United Way of Larimer County by donating a car, to help with the fundraising effort by raising awareness of the needs in our community. There is a long list of organizations, including Pathways Hospice, the new Cancer Center, and Discovery Museum to name a few that have the support of the Dellenbach family.
We honor our Collins Award winners with an original painting of a scene one of their facilities. The painting is by local artist Amelia Caruso.
Please congratulate our 2014 Collins Award Winner, the Dellenbach Family”
|Tuesday, February 24, 2015|
|City Council Should Have People of Great Character|
In the fall I wrote about the upcoming City Council elections and how important they are, and previously I’ve mentioned some of the characteristics important to have in elected officials. With Election Day being six weeks from today, I thought I’d share a few thoughts with you about some of the criteria we consider when endorsing candidates.
Criteria for Supporting City Council Candidates
Serving on the City Council is a serious responsibility with serious consequences for the overall community, but especially the business community. Consequently, business leaders will be rigorous in their consideration of candidates and very direct in communicating what will be necessary to earn the trust and support of the business community.
Candidates that are narrowly focused and have an anti-business perspective will not be supported. Nor will candidates who are dishonest or deceptive about their beliefs. In that regard, experience shows that candidates who are unwilling to honestly convey their views about issues important to business and the local economy, if elected, pursue policies opposed to business and are not accessible and open to input. We absolutely will not support ideologically-driven people who are deceitful in their communications and who work against the interests of the broader business community.
Values that Matter to Business
We do not have a checklist of specific policy positions that candidates must agree to before receiving our support, but we have a strong set of values that are important to us against which candidates will be measured.
In general terms, to earn our support, candidates must:
- support the creation of primary jobs,
- support economic development marketing and the expansion of existing primary employers,
- support reducing the length of the development approval process,
- support water development and storage,
- support community and regional mobility, especially as relates to street and highway capacity,
- support maintaining strong public utilities while keeping utility rates reasonably low,
- oppose mandates on employers relative to their relationships with their own employees.
Relative to personal characteristics and experience that matter to business, candidates must...
...be honest. As noted above, candidates who run under false pretenses or that are not candid and forthcoming about their agenda and views will not be supported. Honesty is foundational to public service and to earning our support.
...be open-minded and willing to hear various perspectives. A councilperson is a representative of all of the people, not the champion of special interests or narrow philosophies. They are on Council to make the best possible long-term decisions for the community. Said in the negative, we do not support agenda-driven ideologues. Doing the job right requires intellectual curiosity, being data-driven, and being open to hearing all perspectives.
...be able to work well with professional city staff while not automatically deferring to their judgment. Both roles are important, but they are different. Council Members bring independent perspective that is rooted in the representing the overall perspective of the citizenry. Independently examining and questioning the staff input in a mutually respectful manner is a key role of Council Members.
...reflect well on the community. The give and take of public decision making can be messy. Even so, we expect a high level of dignity and respectfulness of people who represent us.
...be committed to the community and to the job. Doing the job right requires a dedication of energy, time and focus.
...be public-service motivated. The primary motivation should be to serve the broader public interests. Serving on Council is not about pushing personal agendas or ego-gratification.
...have relevant experience. Good intentions are great. Better, however, are good intentions backed by relevant experience and knowledge. We are interested in people with experience in their work and civic life that lends itself to serving on the city council
...care enough to work hard to win election. To earn our support, candidates must demonstrate that they have 'fire in the belly' and will work extremely hard to win election.
|Tuesday, February 17, 2015|
|Community complacency is a momentum killer|
That’s the answer I recently gave to someone asking what I worry about.
Not one hour after that exchange, I got a call from a Denver Post reporter regarding Fort Collins’ sixth-place place ranking by NerdWallet as an innovative tech hub. Using their methodology, on a per capita basis, Fort Collins is a better techie hub than Austin, Texas, and Boston.
This is the latest in a long string of aren’t-we-great stories that goes back for years. While every city, town and village in America touts its great quality of life, it’s actually true for us. We have made our good fortune by years of hard work and good leadership.
But as fifth-century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus once said, “Human prosperity does not abide long in one place.”
It may seem counter-intuitive, but the seeds of decline are sown in the fruits of success. When you reach the pinnacle, it’s natural to rest and assume the journey is done. A sense of complacency can set in that will keep you from doing what’s needed for ongoing success.
Some of that complacency is evident with a few Fort Collins City Council members who believe city government has done enough already to support job creation. They want to weaken economic development programs and regulate and fee the dickens out of businesses, big and small.
Yet, per capita income continues to drift downward, and we are seventh in the nation in underemployment. We might be doing relatively well according to some rankings, but do you feel it in your family budget and job security? Are your neighbors and children all gainfully employed to the fullest of their abilities?
This is relevant and timely with the April 7 city council elections looming. Every election cycle all candidates declare their support for a healthy local economy. Once elected, however, many set about adopting policies and regulations that are just the opposite.
Pay special attention over the next seven weeks to what candidates are saying. Listen with a critical ear. Here are some questions to keep in mind as you read campaign literature and listen to candidates:
- Does the candidate understand what primary companies are — small and large companies that export at least 50 percent of their services or goods outside the market and import money? Does this candidate support policies to attract and keep such companies in Fort Collins? Does s/he really understand why that is important?
- If so, what is this candidate’s specific plan for economic development?
- Will this candidate support policies to maintain our publicly owned utilities and keep rates reasonable?
- Is this candidate trustworthy? Is he or she forthcoming about beliefs or being evasive and deceptive?
- Will this person support maintaining and improving the street infrastructure?
Fort Collins is at a time of reckoning as we decide to continue forward or slam on the brakes. Complacency means going backwards, and it takes a long time to recover when that happens. This great community deserves better.
Column originally published by The Fort Collins Coloradoan February 12, 2015
|Tuesday, February 10, 2015|
|Innovation in Fort Collins, Stand Aside Austin and Boston|
You may have seen the story today about Fort Collins ranking 6th in the nation as an innovative tech hub. That’s according to a report released by NerdWallet, which you can find here. Their methodology considers number of patents per 1,000 residents, venture capital funding per capita and economies of locational nearness.
As I said in this story in the Denver post about the ranking, for the uninformed we’re a bit of a ‘Silicon secret.’ But as you know, we have a lot resources focused on innovation, which I heard a speaker last week at Disney Institute define as a process that begins with creativity and ends in the marketplace.
Let’s start with the private sector. Companies like Advanced Energy, HP, Otter Products, Woodward and others are regularly applying for and receiving patents on their inventions. Then there’s Colorado State University. The university has made a conscious effort over the past 8 or 9 years to commercialize its research.
Several organizations deserve credit for advancing innovation in Fort Collins including the Rocky Mountain Innosphere, CSU Ventures, CSU Research Innovation Center and the CSU Engines & Energy Conversion Lab.
In terms of size of their tech sectors, most of the other places on the list dwarf us. But, pound for pound, we do quite well.
|Tuesday, February 3, 2015|
|Realities of Transportation Funding|
|By the end of 2017, unless something changes, the State Colorado won't have enough money to do anything except maintenance on the state highways and the interstate system.|
And at this point, Colorado residents don't support increasing the sales tax state wide for transportation nor do they support increasing the gas tax. That's according to polling done last year across the state.
I don't bring all of this up to be negative. Rather, it's to make the point that we need to begin considering local options. That was a major topic of conversation recently between a small group of Northern Colorado business leaders and outgoing CDOT Director Don Hunt. Hunt was making the point that funding for state transportation projects will be in short supply. Both the federal government and the state of Colorado are not likely to fund capacity improvement projects like the widening of I-25.
One option discussed by the group was the creation of a group of regional transportation authority's along the Front Range. RTA's are a tool created under state law that allow residents in local areas to tax themselves for transportation projects. That may be a viable option for Northern Colorado. The general consensus among business people in the room is that unless something is done sooner rather than later, congestion on north I-25 will adversely impact the area economy and quality-of-life. They prefer to be proactive rather than leave our fate in the hands of the state and federal government.
Among other ideas, RTA's will be part of the conversation this summer by the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance.
|Monday, January 26, 2015|
|May: Itís common sense to maintain streets|
You wouldn’t buy a new $1,500 bike and leave it lying in your yard at the mercy of the elements. Nor would you expect to drive your car for 200,000 miles without maintaining and repairing it. This kind of behavior would be irresponsible, wasteful and — frankly —dumb.
Fort Collins residents have long applied that kind of common sense to their streets. Over 150 years, the community has grown and its street system has expanded accordingly. Now at 575 centerline miles of arterial, collector and residential streets, it’s by far the community’s largest public investment. To their credit, residents expect this investment to be properly maintained and have been willing to pay for it.
From years of experience, people around the country responsible for maintaining roads and streets learned that it was much more cost-effective to repair streets before they deteriorate too far. The city of Fort Collins Transportation Department developed a pavement condition index to guide their repair schedule. It determined that keeping streets at Level of Service B — in good condition — costs 6 to 8 times less than a complete rebuild.
To that end, the city spends approximately $15 million annually to repair nearly 70 centerline miles of streets. The money comes from several sources, with the two biggest being a quarter-cent street maintenance sales and use tax and revenue from the 2010 Keep Fort Collins Great sales and use tax. This willingness of voters to tax themselves to maintain streets goes back to the mid-1980s when they approved a quarter-cent tax under a capital program called Project RECAP.
The latest iteration was the Street Maintenance quarter-cent tax passed in 2006. It is due to expire on Dec. 31 unless renewed by voters.
The decision was made by the City Council last Tuesday to put renewal of the tax on the April ballot.
In the course of the conversation, there was an attempt to lower the voter-approved tax and replace it with a City Council-imposed transportation fee. From a government-centric perspective, having a fee sounds great because it means not having to ask voters to approve a tax.
Plus it’s more flexible. Where revenue from a voter-approved street maintenance tax would have to be used for repairing streets, a transportation fee could be used for all kinds of things based on the animating philosophy of a majority of council members. And based on the current nature of politics in Fort Collins, a council-adopted fee would likely be politicized to favor some groups while punishing others. Fortunately, a majority of the council did not go along with the voter bypass scheme.
Another reason a tax is better than a fee is because it’s also paid by visitors and tourists who use our streets. A fee, on the other hand, would shift the burden completely to Fort Collins homeowners and businesses.
Good for the council for letting voters decide and good for citizens for having the common sense to take care of their street system investment.
David May is president and CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Column originally published by The Fort Collins Coloradoan January 22, 2015
|Tuesday, January 20, 2015|
|Work to Fund I-25 Continues|
|On several occasions I’ve reported on the effort to secure funding to widen I-25. It’s not fancy, but go here for a blow by blow report on lobbying activities. It’s a report I submit routinely to the others working on the Fix North I-25 initiative.|
|Tuesday, January 13, 2015|
|The Wall Builders|
Last week I commented on the kerfuffle between a City Council Member and Woodward. The Coloradoan editorialized about the issue in this past Sunday’s paper and today’s issue has a soapbox and letter to the editor from residents taking the Council Member to task.
This week I want to continue on this topic but broaden it out. While the focus has been on how one elected official has been acting towards one company, this problem is bigger than both of them.
Fort Collins by almost any measure is a wonderful place. I don’t want to go all chamber of commerce on you, so I’ll leave it at that and spare you the details! (However, if you want to peruse some of the community’s rankings, you can find them here!)
That said, when the Council Member let his mask slip he did us all a favor by openly revealing to the public at-large his raw political ambitions and guiding philosophy. While this doesn’t fully capture it, a short description is that he and his fellow travelers are anti-business, anti-economy, anti-population growth and pro-accumulation of as much power as they can acquire.
Most residents are so focused on making a living and raising their families these political machinations never hit their radar screens. That is until there’s an overreach like when the City Council tried to take over the trash haulers a few years ago, when they tried to impose a fee on plastic bags and now when one of them is openly bullying a longstanding, beloved and important local employer.
Many businesses, on the other hand, have a different vantage point, especially those trying to build or expand. Sadly, the treatment directed towards Woodward is not all that unusual. The difference this time is that the company pushed back.
You might wonder “Why would an elected city official want to discourage local companies from growing and creating jobs?” The answer he (and his allies) gives is that he opposes ‘corporate welfare’ and he believes ‘growth should pay its own way.’
My theory is that it’s part of the larger wall building process to keep people out of Fort Collins. Never mind that most of the wall-builders moved here from other places! Here are six ways he / they go about building walls.
First, encircle the community with open lands and community separators. This has been popular with the public. It maintains the open character of a western community and provides close-in recreation opportunities and wildlife habitat. It isn’t free, however, and it does dramatically impact the cost of housing.
Second, create a firm growth management boundary (wall). As a community, it’s a declaration that we are going to forever remain a mid-sized city. Twelve, thirteen years ago several council members and community activists declared that I-25 was a firm line that we would not cross. How has it worked out for us have Costco and Walmart in Timnath instead of land that should have been annexed into Fort Collins? Sometimes the wall builders trip up.
Third, build a wall of fees. Did you know that Fort Collins has the second highest fees on commercial development in the state? An example of how we have to work around that is the so-called $23M incentive package given to Woodward to expand in Fort Collins. No, no, no! City taxpayers are not giving money to Woodward. Most of that money is the waiver of fees that should have never been charged in the first place. Sticking with my wall analogy, the city government built a wall then had to take down several rows of bricks to allow a company that had been here for 3 generations to be able to stay. In essence, the Woodward package is a sort of rebate on an excessive overcharge.
Fourth, build a wall of regulations. Every study and plan adopted by the city government over the last 25 years has been used by the Council Member and his allies to add layer upon layer of new requirements and restrictions on construction, development and business.
Fifth, related to the item above is the development review process. It routinely takes 18 months for projects to get through the maze of city government. A key strategy is to make the process slow and expensive.
Finally, the sixth wall is the no-jobs wall. This is the one being used by the Council Member relative to Woodward. The thinking is something like this: If only those rascally companies wouldn’t expand and create jobs, we could keep people from moving here. While he / his allies can get away with some of the other more hidden wall building strategies, this one is a political minefield. The public won’t put up with someone openly playing politics with their jobs and the health of the local economy.
None of above is meant to be negative. On the contrary, I’m quite bullish on future of Fort Collins. It’s just that the Council Member’s ham-handed treatment of the community’s leading company was a teachable moment. It’s a chance to put in context a story of the day with the underlying political agenda that’s afoot.
|Tuesday, January 6, 2015|
|May: Stop petty harassment of Woodward|
Are you feeling fully secure about your household income? For those of you working, do you feel secure about your job?
Are you working at a job that matches your education and skill level? Do you make the income you think you deserve?
As investment advisers like to say, results may vary, but for the majority of people in Fort Collins the answers to these questions are no, no, no and no.
Do you believe city government should encourage companies to leave town or cut back on their workforces? Do you think city officials should act in a manner that discourages companies from opening or expanding in Fort Collins?
In your opinion, is it in the best interests of the community for city government officials to harass and provoke the city's key employers?
The answers for most of us would be no, no and no. Of course not.
Do you believe the community should honor and celebrate its founders? Do you think city government should eventually fix a street that it has targeted for improvements for 25 years? Most of us would probably answer yes and yes.
I'm asking these questions to put in perspective the odd harassment campaign of a City Council member and his political handler against a Fort Collins company, Woodward.
The council member — who I won't name for this publicity-grabbing move — regularly rails against supporting companies including Woodward, opposes naming the 30 acres that Woodward donated to the citizens of Fort Collins after the pioneer family that first settled the land, and opposes making improvements to the street north of the Woodward property.
Regarding Lincoln Avenue, improvements — including adding sidewalks — have been on the city's streets master plan since 1989. That's 24 years before Woodward decided to locate nearby.
He finally provoked the company into sending a letter calling him out for his behavior. In my 35-year chamber career, this is the first time I've seen a company harassed to this level and feel compelled to push back.
This kind of treatment sends the wrong message to existing primary employers and others interested in locating to the area. Maybe that's the councilman's goal.
If that's the case, it runs against the grain of public opinion. An improving economy notwithstanding, most Fort Collins citizens believe city government should encourage and support the creation of good-paying jobs.
When asked about economic development strategies, 92 percent of Fort Collins residents support community leaders working to retain existing employers and 67 percent support waiving some taxes and development fees for Fort Collins companies trying to expand.
When residents were asked, "Would you say that retaining Woodward … a company headquartered here in Fort Collins, should be a top priority for the City of Fort Collins," 85 percent said is should be a priority. Fifty-four percent gave it top priority.
Final question: Is playing politics with the residents' jobs and the economic health of the community ever a good idea?
David May is president and CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce. Reach him at email@example.com.
This column was originally published with The Fort Collins Coloradoan January 2, 2015.
|Tuesday, December 30, 2014|
|2014 Chamber Accomplishments|
As we put a wrap on another great year, thank you for your support as members. We’ll put together a more complete annual report to you after the first of the year, but here are a few top of the mind things that the Chamber did in 2014:
- Co-founded and led a new group called the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance. So far the Alliance has helped secure $35M for funding to help widen I-25
- Local economy is growing rapidly
- Hosted world-renowned author Jim Collins (Built to Last: Good to Great; Great by Choice) on April 16 for 1,050 people at the Lincoln Center
- Grew membership by net +63
- Led the successful campaign to renew the county jail tax that is critical for public safety
- Had the most successful fund raising campaign in Chamber’s history. Our volunteers raised $601,000 in 10 weeks
- Supported activities to commemorate Fort Collins’ 150thAnniversary including supporting publication of community book
- Another clean audit
- Re-grew post-Great Recession revenues to highest in Chamber’s history
Happy New Year!
|Tuesday, December 23, 2014|
|The Seasonal Buzz|
Christmas is two days away and the seasonal buzz is at a fevered pitch. Just yesterday I had breakfast in downtown Fort Collins with a friend at the Silver Grill. When we left at 9:00 customers were lined up waiting for a table. Over the noon hour I was back in Old Town and parking places were hard to find. On Saturday the College and Harmony corridors had lots of traffic and the stores my wife and I went into were busy.
Of course, busy-ness doesn’t automatically translate into good business, but it all looked promising. There was a general sense of prosperity and contentment.
The slow economic recovery from the deepest recession since the Great Depression is picking up steam. If there is a silver lining to hard economic times it is a sharper appreciation when things are going well. The spring is more glorious after a long and bitterly cold winter, right?
Hopefully that is the case for you, your business and your family, that things are looking up. At the Chamber we appreciate you being part of our community and our business community.
Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas!
|Monday, December 15, 2014|
By my recollection, this is letter #54 that I've sent over the years!
In all that time we’ve only met once. Do you remember? You were stacking gifts against the back door since our house didn’t have a chimney. After having to climb down from the roof, your low-grade cursing – you called it ‘murmuring’ – woke me up. When you asked to use the bathroom I escorted you to our outhouse whereupon your ‘murmuring’ increased! There’s nothing quite like plopping your rosy bottom down on a frosty outhouse seat, right? A little taste of the North Pole right there in wintry Iowa!
Listen, I know you’re crazy busy so enough about our good old days together. Here’s my wish list for this year.
- First, peace on Earth. I was going to ask for peace and friendship between the CSU stadium friends and foes, but I thought I’d start small and work my way up from there! Maybe next year.
- Add a third lane to I-25 each way between Highway 14 in Fort Collins and Highway 66 in Longmont. CDOT says it will take until 2070, but you can get it done faster than that with one sleigh-full of cement per year.
- A great City Council in April. Without one, community progress stalls.
- Coal in the stockings of the community curmudgeons who wrongly claim that businesses don’t pay their own way. Making matters worse these folks then try use local government to extract money from companies for their various agendas. It’s kind of mob-esque.
- A job for everybody that wants one, and let’s create even better ones to a match the education and skills of our population. After all, we rank 7th in the nation in under-employment.
- Fix Lincoln Avenue between downtown and Lemay. It has been in the City’s plans to do this since the late 1990s. Now with the success of the local breweries and companies like In-Situ and Woodward along that corridor, it makes it even more important.
- A great water plan for Colorado. The state lets too much of the water to which it is entitled flow out of Colorado.
- A Las Vegas Bowl victory for the underdog CSU Rams football team over the PAC 12 Utah Utes.
- Cram a new athletic director, new head football coach and an invitation to join the Big 12 Conference under CSU President Tony Frank’s tree.
- Two 6 foot 5 All-American hitters for CSU Women’s Volleyball Coach Tom Hilbert.
- Lots of profits to area companies. When profitable, they’re hiring people, paying more taxes, providing more goods and services and supporting more community non-profits.
- Peace and safety for the peacekeepers and their loved ones. The men and women in our armed forces are there by choice, but it comes with its own share of risks and hardships.
- Happiness and success for all of our fair citizens.
That’s it, Santa! Travel safe, and here’s wishing you indoor plumbing along the way!
|Tuesday, December 9, 2014|
|Fighting Against Voodoo Economics|
Last Saturday the Fort Collins City Council had a planning retreat. One of the items on the Council’s agenda was discussion about an update to the City’s economic strategy. Let me go to the bottom line first: based on that discussion, it is and will continue to be the official policy of the City of Fort Collins to support a strong local economy through the retention and attraction of primary employers.
Behind that good news, however, is a more nuanced conversation. There are actually a couple of Council Members who don’t want the city government to encourage private sector job creation, especially primary jobs.
Their colleagues on the Council were having none of it. Starting with Mayor Weitkunat, Council Members Gino Campana and Wade Troxell and Mayor Pro Tem Gerry Horak schooled them on the importance of primary employers.
They reminded all of us how important primary employers are to the local economy. The jobs (and the big payrolls) they create allow the retail and service sectors to thrive. Fostering and protecting community income streams – the flow of outside money into Fort Collins – should be the key objective of the City’s economic health strategy. Buzz phrases like ‘steady state economies’ were thrown around as an alternative to focusing on primary employers, but most of the Council understands that it’s a form of voodoo economics with no grounding in the real world.
The short definition is that primary employers are companies that sell most of their product or service outside the local market and bring income into the area. Jobs at these firms on average pay significantly better than those at retail or service companies. And, remember that these companies don’t just hire engineers; they also need truck drivers, receptionists, shipping clerks, janitors, etc.
One positive from this discussion was a reminder that we can’t take for granted that people understand the importance of primary employers. That’s one reason the Chamber created FortCollinsWorks.com. If you’re interested in the topic of economic prosperity and primary employers, I’d suggest you visit the site and look at:
- Page 4 of the document titled “2012 Primary Employment Update.” The report was prepared by Dr. Martin Shields. On Page 4 you’ll find a definition of primary employers and why they are important.
- “Why Focus on Primary Jobs.” This short document explains the economic value of primary or base jobs.
In closing, hats off to the Mayor and Council Members for keeping the City focused on supporting a strong local economy.
|Tuesday, December 2, 2014|
|Moving Fort Collins Forward! Campaign a Huge Success|
The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce’s recently completed Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign was a huge success. How big? Well, against a goal of $550,000 Chamber volunteers raised $600,912! Additionally, against a goal of 100 new members by the end of the year, we are currently at 96.
As a reminder, this annual campaign is used to raise about half of the money the Chamber will need in the following year. The money goes toward programs, events and key strategic initiatives. An example of the latter is the Fix North I-25 Initiative. The goal there was to raise $100,000 for lobbying for the money to widen I-25 to 3 lanes each way between Highway 14 and Highway 66 just north of Longmont. About $70,000 has been raised so far with other pledges still being considered.
Moving Fort Collins Forward! is driven by volunteers and we had an amazing group leading the campaign. Chamber Chair Chris Otto, partner in the audit, tax and consulting firm EKS&H, set the tone, and we had two strong and effective Campaign Co Chairs, Yvonne Myers, Columbine Health Systems and John Carroll, Ed Carroll Motor Company.
Their work as campaign leaders was backed up by a group of Vice Chairs that lent their names and support including Eric Adams of Wells Fargo, Mark Driscoll of First National Bank, David Everitt of Everitt Companies, Dr. Tony Frank of Colorado State University, Kathy Jack-Romero of The Fort Collins Coloradoan, Lucia Liley of Liley, Rogers & Martell, Curt Richardson of OtterBox, Rick Sutton of Banner Health, Kevin Unger of University of Colorado Health and Bob Wilson of Columbine Health Systems.
What really makes the campaign work are the team captains, and we had some great ones including:
- Auto Dealers (Dellenbach Motors, Ed Carroll Motors, Tynan’s)- John Carroll
- Bank of Colorado - Karis Harmon and Kayla Myers
- Banner Health/Kaiser Permanente - Dawn Paepke and Dan Dennie
- Brinkman Partners - Pete Meyer
- Columbine Health Systems - Yvonne Myers
- Elevations Real Estate - Chris Hardy
- First National Bank - Ken DeSimone
- Flood & Peterson - Brett Kemp
- Food Service of America – Greg Yancey
- Guaranty Bank - Rich Pearson and David Fritzler
- Home State Bank - Debra Kelly
- Red Carpet - Bethany Cox and Craig Vollmer
- UC Health - Amy Kolczak
- Wells Fargo - Eric Adams and Kevin McDonald
And, of course, I need to mention the top individual producers and teams, right!? Altogether there were 70+ volunteers involved in the campaign, and the top individual producers were:
- Ninth Place Individual: Ken DeSimone, First National Bank
- Eighth Place Individual: Pete Meyer, Brinkman Partners
- Seventh Place Individual: Gina DiGiallonardo, Columbine Health Systems
- Sixth Place Individual: Kim Martin, FMS Bank
- Fifth Place Individual: Brett Kemp, Flood & Peterson
- Fourth Place Individual: Amy Kolczak, University of Colorado Health
- Third Place Individual: Dawn Paepke, Kaiser Permanente
- Second Place Individual: John Carroll, Ed Carroll Motor Company
- Top Producer, 2014: Yvonne Myers, Columbine Health Systems
All of the teams were impressive, but the top four producers were:
- Fourth Place Team: Chamber Red Carpet Committee
- Third Place Team: Kaiser Permanente/Banner Health
- Second Place Team: Auto Dealers Team (Dellenbach Motors, Ed Carroll Motors, Tynan’s)
- Top Producing Team, 2014: Columbine Health Systems
To a person, the Chamber staff all supported the campaign, but a special ‘thank you’ to Kim Medina. She is the Chamber’s Director of Membership and is the Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign manager. She’s the glue that holds the whole thing together.
And last but not least, a big thanks to all of you. Over 400 companies and individuals made investments during the campaign. Because of all of you, the Chamber is poised for an impactful 2015. Because of you, the Chamber just completed the most successful fund raising campaign in its history.
|Tuesday, November 18, 2014|
|Market Your Company Using Chamber Programs|
The Chamber’s annual Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign is in its final days. If you’re interested in sponsoring a program, event or initiative, there’s still time. Give Kim Medina on our team a call at 482-3751 x 104, and she’ll have one of our teams contact you. You can learn more about our key initiatives here (including our work to get I-25 widened) and sponsorship opportunities here.
As part of the campaign, we are also trying to grow our membership. We are closing in on our goal, so if you know of someone who should be a member put in a good word on our behalf and call Joe Anderson on our team at 482-3751 x 100. Joe will give them a call to get them enrolled.
|Tuesday, November 11, 2014|
|Tax Measure of Pet Projects?|
In the past I have written about the long tradition in Fort Collins of citizens voting to tax themselves for public infrastructure improvements. Since 1973 city leaders have brought forward a series of proposed capital improvements for voter consideration. Many of the significant public infrastructure additions and improvements have come from these tax measures.
The last one was passed November 1, 2005. Popularly known as “Building on Basics” – BOB for short – the measure was an extension of an existing 0.25% sales and use tax until December 31, 2015. The revenues have been used for such things as intersection improvements and traffic signals (including Harmony/College), Timberline Road - Drake Road to Prospect Road, Lincoln Center renovation and cultural facilities plan, park upgrades and enhancements, Fort Collins Senior Center improvements and the Fort Collins Museum/Discovery Science Center joint facility.
With the tax due to expire, the City staff and Council are working on a new list. So far it has been…underwhelming?
The list looks more like a bureaucratic wish-list of pet projects than it does aspirational projects that address the most important community issues. For example, one of the biggest community problems is the train running through town. As discussed recently in the Chamber’s Local Legislative Affairs Committee, instead of cutting off cross streets (an idea that is being considered by the City) and adding crossing arms, isn’t it time to seriously consider grade separated crossings (streets over or under the railroad tracks)? And speaking of mobility, notice how light this list is in that regard. There are significant choke points in town that are not included.
The Council will be taking this list up again on December 9. If you have opinions about what should be included or dropped from the list, the time in now to weigh-in. You can find Council contact information here.
|Tuesday, October 28, 2014|
|Election April 2015|
Are you tired of the election season sound and fury? I’m sure all of us are at this point, Democrat, Unaffiliated, Republican or other. At least in that we can all find common ground!
It’s mildly cruel then for me to start talking about the NEXT election when we aren’t done with the current one. However, City Council elections are rapidly approaching, only 5 months away.
Most of us are justifiably proud of our community, and by extension, our local government. The occasional overreach notwithstanding – can you say ‘bag fee,’ for example? – the City of Fort Collins is effective, competent and well-run.
However, it is big and powerful and does attract its share of do-gooders who want to use all that power to bend and shape the community into their vision of utopia. This big government activism often conflicts with the leave-me-alone independence of most business people. As a person running a business in our fair community, you already know how many ways City Hall inserts itself into your affairs – sign code, parking regulations, landscaping requirements, fees, fees and more fees, land use codes, building codes, fire codes, street projects, utility projects, zoning restrictions, etc, etc, etc.
While the interests of business and city government generally line up well most of the time, there is a class of folks that really don’t like business. They see you as either a piggy bank to pay for all their pet projects or as the enemy. Harsh? Not really. It’s a perspective earned from watching local politics for many years.
It is in the business community’s enlightened self-interest to pay attention to City Hall, especially who is serving on your City Council.
The current Council is finely balanced on a 3-1-3 knife edge. Three people routinely vote and speak against business and economic development, three routinely do the opposite and the final person is the swing vote. On the whole, the arrangement works pretty well for the community.
That could change in April and for the worse when four of the seven City Council seats will be up for election.
The four seats include Mayor, District 2 (east-central Fort Collins) where the incumbent is term-limited, District 4 (southwest Fort Collins) where the incumbent is term-limited and District 6 (northwest Fort Collins).
Five months out, a couple of the incumbents haven’t indicated what they plan to do. The key election will be District 2, so, if you know of anyone who would make a great City Council member, encourage them to look into running.
Here’s the link to a map with the City Council district boundaries. You can even type in an address to determine which district you’re in.
April’s election will be an important one for the community. We can either slam on the brakes or maintain our momentum. The caliber of the City Council will largely determine which.
|Tuesday, October 21, 2014|
|Keep Larimer County Safe - Yes on 1B|
You probably just received your mail-in ballot for this fall's election. I want to make a pitch for one measure in particular, Item 1B.
When asked about 'quality of life,' most of us cite great schools or bike trails or open space, but is there any more important to your quality of life than your safety?
Item 1B is the continuation of an existing tax to support the operations of the Larimer County jail system. Not sexy, not exciting, but very important.
To learn more about Item 1B, here are a couple of resources:
|Tuesday, October 7, 2014|
|CSU Stadium, Moving Fort Collins Forward, New Members|
It's a beautiful fall in Northern Colorado. As I write this, it's a near perfect 71 degrees and sunny with the leaves in their full glory.
As you know by now, the Colorado State University Board of Governors heard a report last week from CSU President Tony Frank about the status of fund raising for the proposed on-campus stadium. The Board approved Dr. Frank's recommendation to further study 4 options ranging from maintenance of the existing stadium to a public-private partnership to build the stadium on the campus. You can learn more at www.colostate.edu/stadium/. I am one of six people on the Community Leadership Committee that will provide Dr. Frank feedback on the 4 options. If you have opinions about the options, feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
# # #
The Chamber's Moving Fort Collins Forward!
campaign has been underway for 4 weeks. At this moment, it has generated $259,150 and 21 new members against goals of $550,000 and 100, respectively.
You can help several ways:
- Underwrite one of our top initiatives. These programs help us effectively represent business with government including lobbying to secure the money to widen I-25 to 3 lanes each way between Highway 14 (Mulberry) in Fort Collins to Highway 66 just north of Longmont. Learn more about those initiatives here.
- Sponsor a Chamber program or event. These are great ways to market your company while supporting worthwhile programs. Golf tournament, annual dinner, Leadership Fort Collins, Fridays at the Chamber, Small Business of the Year Luncheon, and helping us finally pay off our 42-year old mortgage are a few examples. Find the list of programs here.
- Recruit or refer someone for membership. We are climbing back after the so-called Great Recession but still haven't reached our pre-recession membership number. We can get close by recruiting 100 new members during this campaign. Check the online membership directory to see if they are members or contact Joe Anderson (email@example.com) and he'll check for you. Other links you can send to prospective members include Join Online, Accomplishments and Goals, "Grow Your Business With Us" and Membership booklet.
Thanks for your help! The campaign ends on November 20.
|Tuesday, September 30, 2014|
|Potpourri of Topics|
A lot of things are happening in our area. Rather than restricting myself to one topic this week, here are some of the things on my mind.
- How about those Rams?! What a fun game on Saturday with the Colorado State University football team traveling to Boston and beating favored Boston College 24-21. Unlike some of my "Xs" and "Os" friends that love to dissect all of the plays, what I find fascinating is the mental toughness that Coach Jim McElwain is teaching his players. CSU's victory over Washington State in December's New Mexico Bowl, the first game of the season against University of Colorado and now the Boston College win are all attributable to resilience. They prepare right, they don't make excuses and they don't hang their heads. Those are pretty good life lessons, wouldn't you agree?
- Speaking of CSU athletics, CSU President Tony Frank's announcement last week that the university had not met the $110M fund raising goal for the proposed on-campus football / multipurpose stadium was interesting on several levels. Securing $50M in private sector pledges is astonishing. That is a remarkable statement of support. But, of course, $50M isn't $110M, so opponents of the stadium want to call it a failure, end of discussion. While some leaders might have agreed with that just to make the issue go away, Dr. Frank's approach of considering a range of options was the appropriate response. What an interesting dilemma he needs to sort through: lots of financial support but not enough to proceed as envisioned; an aging existing stadium with high maintenance and repair costs but no outside funding; diminishing state financial support of the university but a chance to use a reinvigorated athletics program to help brand the university to attract students and alumni support. As the leader of the institution, he has a duty to put the university in a position to be successful over the long-term. It will be an interested couple of months.
- Speaking of dilemmas, the City Council is in a tough spot relative to the bag fee. As you'll recall, this summer, the Council passed an ordinance mandating grocery stores and most area retailers collect a fee on all disposable bags. A group of citizens collected signatures to force the Council to overturn the ordinance or to place the measure on the ballot in a special election or at the next regularly scheduled election, which would be next April. Having this on the ballot next April while the Council is electing new Council members and asking voters to approve a tax for capital investments (streets, public buildings, etc.) would be a disaster.
- Elections are upon us and the Chamber is making recommendations on various ballot issues. You will find that highlighted elsewhere in this publication and on the Chamber website.
|Tuesday, September 16, 2014|
|Update on Widening of I-25|
I've periodically updated you on efforts to secure the $965M necessary to widen I-25 from Highway 14 (Mulberry Road in Fort Collins) to Highway 66 just north of Longmont to 3 lanes each way.
The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce is working on this project with the Greeley and Loveland Chambers through the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance. We have created an initiative called the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance.
This is a long-term project in a resource-constrained environment. It will take consistent, persistent lobbying effort to patch together various funding sources.
Short-term goals of the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance include:
- Get the Alliance fully-operational – leaders in place, funding set
- Convince the 13-member government coalition (I-25 Coalition) to reach agreement that keeps $35M of designated state funding in Northern Colorado on the portion of the interstate that needs widened
- Support CDOT if it applies for federal Presidential Challenge and Resilience and Recovery grants
- Protect SB-228 transportation funding during 2015 Legislative Session
- Determine whether federal funding is available through freight corridor or high priority corridor designations
- Convince CDOT to make an operational change to move trucks into the right-hand lane of southbound I-25 on the Berthoud Hill
Here's the direct lobbying the Fix North I-25 Alliance has done so far this year:
- Planning to attend board meeting of Colorado High Performance Transportation Enterprise (Sept 17)
- Contacted the 13 local governments in group called I-25 Coalition to press them to develop united plan for North I-25 expansion (Sept 5)
- Met with Governor John Hickenlooper and briefed him on situation on North I-25 (Aug 28)
- Met with CDOT Director Don Hunt to press him to support widening of North I-25(Aug 28)
- Briefed U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (Aug 7)
- Lobbied U.S. Congressman Cory Gardner (Aug 6)
- Met with CDOT Region 4 officials including Commissioner Kathy Gilliland and CDOT Director Johnny Olson (July 31)
- Met with Gubernatorial Candidate Bob Beauprez (July 17)
- Testified to U.S. Congressman Bill Shuster, Chair of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (July 1)
- Met with Former CDOT Director Tom Norton for background information on highway funding (June 11)
- Lobbied U.S. Congressman Jared Polis (spring) who declared widening of I-25 the top transportation project in his district
- Attended monthly meetings of government I-25 Coalition (13 county and local governments that touch North I-25)
We are raising money for our lobbying effort. If you're interested in helping out, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970 482-3751 x 102.
|Tuesday, September 9, 2014|
|Fix I-25, Good-Paying Jobs, Stand Up for Biz|
|At its most fundamental, your chamber of commerce is a tool for you to 1) market your company, and 2) affect issues that impact the local economy.|
To those broad ends, the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce annually conducts the Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign. The number goals for this year's campaign are 100 new members and $550,000 of financial support.
More specifically, there are 21 programs up for sponsorship in this year's campaign. Many of them great avenues for marketing your company. You can find information about them here.
Then there are three big initiatives focused on impacting the local economy. The first is the Fix North I-25 Initiative. I-25 is a mess and is getting rapidly worse. It will take a big, sustained lobbying effort to secure the $965M necessary to widen the interstate to three lanes between Highway 14 and Highway 66. Learn more here.
The second big initiative is Strong Economy Initiative. The key program here is the Fort Collins Works program. While it's great to be Northern Colorado and especially Fort Collins, we still rank 7th in the nation in under-employment. Even so, some politicians are calling for less support of economic development. Learn more here.
The third big initiative is the Stand Up for Business Initiative. The quality of government matters, as does the quality of elected officials making decisions. This initiative is about keeping a strong lobbying and political program in place to represent the business perspective. Learn more here.
The final thing I wanted to mention is re-growing the Chamber's membership base. The Great Recession hurt all membership-based associations. The Chamber has replaced many of the lost memberships but we'd like to re-grow the membership to over 1200 members. We're at 1087 today and the campaign goal of 100 gets us close. If you know of someone who should be a member, send them here or have them contact Joe Anderson on our team at email@example.com or at (970) 482-3746.
|Tuesday, August 26, 2014|
|Bag Fee Nonsense|
|The City Council, after a tortured, convoluted discussion last week, passed an ordinance mandating that you charge your customers for plastic bags.|
It is an example of bad policy and horrible governance.
The stated reason for this heavy-handed policy is that plastic bags are bad for the environment. Specifically, we're told that our precious landfill space is being filled up with disposable bags. But stop and think about that for a minute. How much space does a wadded up plastic grocery bag really take? I'm guessing the millions of grocery bags in question could be actually be compressed into the modest 2,350 cubic foot office I'm now sitting in. For a multi-use product that provides so much convenience to consumers that is a pretty small price to pay.
No, the real reason you will need to charge your customers 5 cents for a plastic bag starting next April is social engineering. We're the lab rats in a social conditioning exercise. Lest you think I'm off my nut and going anti-government conspiracy theorist on you, a City official actually admitted this before the Economic Advisory Commission earlier this month. In essence she said, if we can get you to do this, we can get you to do other things.
Got that? Local government is imposing itself between you and your customer to get the citizenry learned-up proper for the next thing they're scheming up in the bowels of city hall.
Compounding bad policy was a bad decision-making process. The ordinance that Council adopted was not vetted and discussed by the public, as the Coloradoan's Erin Stephenson explains here. She calls it a 'bait and switch.'
To learn more about the ordinance, go here.
The people voting for this legislation were Bob Overbeck, Lisa Poppaw, Gino Campana, Ross Cunniff, and Gerry Horak.
It's hard to say which is more irritating: the unnecessary law or the way in which it was imposed.
|Wednesday, August 20, 2014|
|PSD On Right Path|
|This past weekend the Coloradoan ran a front page story about the Poudre School District's Superintendent Sandra Smyser and how she's doing one year into her tenure. On behalf of the Chamber, I was interviewed for the story. You can find my answers here. The short version is that we think Dr. Smyser is a great addition to the community and that the school district is on the right path. A challenge for all superintendents, of course, is staying in touch with employers to remain sensitive to what graduates are facing in the workplace. In that regard, Dr. Smyser and the School Board seem to be inclined to seek input. Anyway, as a new school year starts, we have reason to be optimistic about the direction of the school district.|
|Tuesday, August 5, 2014|
|Free Lunch on Friday|
|Whoever said there's no such thing as a free lunch never heard about "Fridays at the Chamber!"|
For the second summer in a row, on select Fridays at lunch, the Chamber does a cookout on its patio. The price is (drum roll please)....FREE! Yep, "Fridays at the Chamber" are free for Chamber members. And, there are no programs and presentations. The whole gathering consists of people enjoying hotdogs, hamburgers and watermelon while chatting with friends and meeting new people. The timing is flexible, too. Stop in anytime between 11:30 and 1:00.
"Fridays at the Chamber" is made possible by generous sponsors including your benefactor this week, Advantage DataSystems Corporation
The next "Fridays at the Chamber" cookout is this Friday August 8, 11:30 - 1:00. You can register by going here.
Plan to stop on Friday.
|Tuesday, July 29, 2014|
|Community Investment or Just a Wish List?|
|For decades residents of Fort Collins have elected to tax themselves to pay for public investments they wanted to improve their community.|
It started in 1973 with a ballot measure popularly known as "Building Tomorrow Today." Over the decades that followed, there has been a series of tax measures on the ballot with a specific list of proposed community projects and a tax that sunsets after a specific period of time. You should review the list of tax measures and the projects they funded, which you can find here. It's a remarkable list and a great example of enlightened self-governance. This approach has helped make Fort Collins one of America's most livable places.
The magic of the process is that it is voluntary taxation to accomplish important things over a specific period of time. City officials - electeds and staff - have honored the trust by doing what voters approved. (One exception would be Prospect between Prospect Parkway just east of Timberline and I-25. It was to be widened to 4 lanes. Instead, it remains only two lanes but with more turn lanes.)
The latest iteration of this series of tax measures was called "Building on Basics." Known as BOB, the tax is due to expire December 31, 2015. The imminent sunsetting of this tax has set a planning process in motion at City Hall to identify the next set of projects to propose to voters next April.
Now is the time to begin tuning in to the process. The reason is because wants substantially exceed needs as everybody adds their projects to the list. At this point the 'wants' list is approximately $421M to $456M (capital cost only) and $484M to $584M when 10 years of operations and maintenance are added. This far exceeds the projected revenue of $80 million over 10 years.
The risk is that pet projects or things that are routine will dominate the list instead of things that are genuine investments in the livability of the community.
The Chamber has not offered a specific list at this point in the process because it's still early but we have a bias towards transportation mobility. In particular, street projects that improve traffic flow should be given priority.
If you want to see the larger list as it now stands, go here and their descriptions here.
The City Council will be taking this issue up at a special retreat on Saturday, October 11 (location and time to be determined).
|Tuesday, July 15, 2014|
|And the Big Issue in Town is....|
|Quick, name the biggest community issue that comes to mind.|
Some of you probably thought 'jobs' or 'good-paying jobs' or 'the economy.' Those make sense. While things are going well in the Fort Collins region, we aren't creating enough good paying jobs to meet demand. As I've mentioned in this space previously, we rank 7th in the nation in under-employment.
For others, "traffic congestion" was the first thing to pop into your heads. A logical subset of this one is "I-25 traffic."
Still others of you might have thought "affordable housing." Another good choice. The real estate markets for apartments and single-family residents is tight at the moment. In fact, we have some of the highest rents in the state. There are a lot of factors here, but city government's 3-unrelated ordinance and costly are development regulations are the biggest drivers.
The proposed on-campus Colorado State University stadium, MAX rapid bus transit, and the redevelopment of the mall probably made some of your lists.
So, what is the big issue? Banning plastic grocery bags, of course, silly! Well, at least according to our City Council. They approved an ordinance on First Reading at their July 1 meeting to require grocers to charge a 10 cent 'fee' for single use plastic and paper bags beginning in January. The ordinance was up for final approval tonight on Second Reading but because of adverse feedback from citizens, the item has been rescheduled for August 19.
In the scheme of things, this is not a big economic issue for the community. Consequently, the Chamber doesn't have a formal position on the issue. That said, a number of you have mentioned it to us as one more example of local government overreach and intrusion, a half-thought out, largely symbolic effort to help some people feel good about 'saving the planet.'
Those sentiments make sense starting with the fact that so-called 'single use' bags are actually reused for various purposes in most of our homes. Then consider that studies have shown that plastic bags only account for 0.6 percent of the nation's visual litter. In Fort Collins that number is probably even less. It's a 'solution' in search of a problem.
Anyway, as a member service, if you want to weigh in on the issue with your Council Members, you can get in touch with the mayor, all city council members and the city manager by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.