|Tuesday, April 24, 2012|
|Small Business is a Big Deal|
Tomorrow the Chamber is hosting a sold-out Small Business of the Year Awards Luncheon. It's a great opportunity to celebrate small business in general and to honor some worthy companies in particular. I wrote about the importance of small business in a column in the Coloradoan last weekend, which you can read here.
Out of dozens of companies, the six finalists are Alphagraphics, Brinkman Partners, MazTech & All-Tech Automotive, Palmer Flowers, Shaw & Associates, and The Cupboard.
Congratulations and thank you for all you do for our community!
Special thanks to our sponsors.
- The Event Partner is First National Bank.
- Event Supporters include Dellenbach Chevrolet, Cadillac, Subaru and Suzuki; Fort Collins Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and Hyundai; Pinnacol Assurance; Snell & Wellmer LLP; Tynan's Nissan, Kia & Saab; Ward Petroleum; and Mantooth Marketing Company.
- Event Sponsors are JAX Mercantile and Perkins & Coie Law Firm.
- In-kind Sponsors are Palmer Flowers and the Hilton Fort Collins.
While we're talking small business, you might want to check out the Blogroll to the left. There are some great resources here for small businesses.
We really appreciate our small businesses, which make up the vast majority of the Chamber's membership. We love hearing your stories and the passion you bring to serving your customers and community.
|Tuesday, April 17, 2012|
|May 8 Election Health District of Northern Larimer County|
Did you know that there’s an election on May 8? No? Well, you’re in good company.
The Health District of Northern Larimer County has a District Board Election that day. If you’re not familiar with it, the Health District is a special tax district that is funded by local property taxes and governed by an elected board of five people. It serves the northern two-thirds of Larimer County including Red Feather Lakes, Livermore, Fort Collins, Wellington, Timnath and LaPorte. The Health District uses about $7million of our tax dollars on community healthcare including dental, mental health, preventive health and prescription assistance.
There are five candidates competing for two four-year seats.
You will NOT be getting a ballot in the mail. If are a registered voter in the Health District you can vote May 8 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. at the Health District office, 120 Bristlecone Drive, Fort Collins and at Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church, 4501 South Lemay Avenue, Fort Collins. If you’re interested in voting for Health District candidates via mail in the future, you should consider filling out an Application for Permanent Mail-in Voter Status.
The Chamber has NOT endorsed in this election. I’ve read the profiles of the candidates and it looks like there are some qualified people. Of the five, I am only familiar with Matt Fries and Debbie Healy.
If you are interested in the Health District of Northern Larimer County board elections, you can find out more here.
|Friday, April 13, 2012|
|Q2 2012 Confidence Index is Mixed|
The quarterly survey by the Kauffman Foundation and Legal Zoom of startup business owners shows mixed results with most expecting lowered consumer demand over the next 12 months but with employee hiring expected to increase. Find the results here.
|Wednesday, April 11, 2012|
|Free Markets Lift People Out of Poverty|
Government serves important purposes, but for some things, like creating economic prosperity, for example, the free market is far superior. As the communist economic model imploded in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and China and India - the world's most populous countries - opened up their markets, the poverty rate around the globe shrank dramatically. In the past 30 years, the percentage of people living on less than the equivalent of $1.25 per day from 52 percent of the world population to 22 percent.
According to Guy Sorman writing in City Journal, the United States deserves much of the credit. You can read his article here.
|Monday, April 9, 2012|
|City Council and Term Limits|
Should City Council term limits be changed from 2 four-year terms (total of 8 years) to 3 four-year terms (total of 12 years)?
That question is being floated by some City Council members, especially those who will be term limited out of office next April. The Council will probably take the question up at their June 12 Work Session.
|Friday, April 6, 2012|
|Fort Collins on the Nanotechnology Map|
Here’s an interesting map that shows the urban areas in the U.S. with emerging nanotechnology clusters. Colorado, including Fort Collins, makes a respectable showing. A common definition of nanotechnology is engineering of functional systems at the molecular level. At Colorado State University nanotechnology can be illustrated with battery research being done by Amy Prieto, founder of Prieto Battery.
|Tuesday, April 3, 2012|
Today’s Coloradoan has a story about the new role that Poudre Valley Health System President & CEO Rulon Stacey has taken on due to the merger of PVHS and University of Colorado Hospital. Rulon is the chief executive officer of the new organization, which is called University of Colorado Health.
I put on a happy face in the article and stand behind the words – we will still benefit from his leadership in his new role – but I am sorry to lose him as a resident of Fort Collins. He has been more than the head of our health care system. Rulon has been a strong community leader, and that is hard to replace.
So, Rulon, thank you for everything you’ve done for the community, we look forward to continuing to work with you and best of luck in your new role.
# # #
About Rulon Stacey:
- Rulon F. Stacey, Ph.D., joined Poudre Valley Health System in 1996. Since that time, Dr. Stacey has led the transformation of PVHS into a health system with more than 5,300 employees and a dozen facilities in three states.
- During his time in Fort Collins, Dr. Stacey has distinguished himself as a healthcare executive, international speaker and author.
- He has developed some innovative partnerships that include nearly 20 joint ventures with physicians groups in the region and Medical Center of the Rockies, and a unique joint venture regional tertiary referral center between PVHS and Regional West Medical Center, Scotsbluff, Neb.These joint ventures have allowed the health system to focus on quality outcomes, while nearly quadrupling the net revenue and net assets of the health system.
- Dr. Stacey received the 1999 Robert S. Hudgens Award from the American College of Healthcare Executives as the “Young Healthcare Executive of the Year.”
- In November 2008, the President of the United States announced that Poudre Valley Health System was one of only three organizations and the only healthcare organization in the United States to receive that year’s prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest recognition for performance excellence.
- In March 2011 Dr. Stacey was confirmed as Chairman of the American College of Healthcare Executives governing board.
- In August 2011, Modern Healthcare named Dr. Stacey among the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare for 2011.
- Regularly, Poudre Valley Health System is recognized as one of the top 100 health systems in the U.S.
- Dr. Stacey is also the author of Over Our Heads, an account of why healthcare costs in the United States are so high.
- A native of Provo,Utah, Dr. Stacey holds a bachelor of science in economics and a master’s degree in health administration from Brigham Young Universityand a doctor of philosophy in Public Administration from the University of Colorado.
- Dr. Stacey became chief executive officer of University of Colorado Health in 2012.
|Thursday, March 29, 2012|
|Reform Will Move Ahead, With or Without “Obamacare”|
Whether the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (aka “Obamacare”) stands or is declared unconstitutional in part or in whole, the healthcare sector will continue to undergo significant changes in the years ahead. That’s a key message shared during the Chamber’s Health Care in Your Future Summit yesterday at the Embassy Suites.
|Wednesday, March 21, 2012|
|Chambers Have Helped Shape America|
Did you know that United Way got its start through chambers of commerce? Did you know that the city manager-council form of local governments was championed by chambers? Did you know the Farm Bureau started as an initiative of a local chamber of commerce? Did you know that the biggest advocate for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge was a local chamber?
Chambers of commerce have a long history in America as a place where businesspeople could shape the direction of their communities. In fact, there were chambers of commerce in the Thirteen Colonies. In other words, we had chambers before we even had a country.
The foremost expert on the history of chambers of commerce in America is Chris Mead who is a senior vice president of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives. You might enjoy a recent article he wrote titled “Not Born for Ourselves Alone: A Snapshot of the Chamber World in the Early 20th Century.”
The role, growth and cost of government and who pays combined is the biggest issue of our times. These issues play themselves out in the daily headlines regarding tax increases on the wealthy, budget cuts, corporate tax cuts, Medicare and Social Security reform, the new health care law, the debt ceiling, etc.
Because the dollars involved are huge and the impacts are profound, the major political parties in an election year are intent on lobbing bombs back and forth rather finding common ground. Consequently, sorting out the dueling ‘facts’ can be difficult for we mere civilians.
Here’s a three-part post that reviews the impacts of President Obama’s budget and that of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. The economist – Keith Hennessey – does a good job of letting the numbers speak for themselves without wading into the partisan political swamp.
|Tuesday, March 20, 2012|
|The Changing World of Healthcare (and Why You Should Care)|
Why are hospitals merging? Why are hospitals opening clinics and buying doctors groups? Why is Kaiser Permanente coming into the Northern Colorado market? Why has the Poudre Valley Health System decided to offer its own insurance product? What is happening to healthcare in this country? What will happen in the Supreme Court with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ‘Obamacare’)?
Is all of this change in the healthcare sector good or bad for the economy of Northern Colorado?
What does all of this mean to me personally and to my family and employees?
These and other questions will be answered at a Chamber event on Wednesday March 28 at 7:30 a.m. called “Health Care in Your Future.” It will be at the Embassy Suites, 4705 Clydesdale Parkway in Loveland.
|Monday, March 19, 2012|
|State Governments Keep Cutting|
State and local governments across America continue to cut their workforces and budgets in the face of constricted revenue, according to a story in the March 12 issue of the Wall Street Journal. State governments are facing $47 billion of shortfalls, but that is down from $191 billion three years ago. Combined, local and state governments have cut 647,000 jobs since mid-2008. Over the next several years all of this will continue to play out in legislatures in the form of debates about tax and fee increases, eliminating or restricting tax credits, and pay and benefits for public employee union members. In Colorado it has appeared in form of a big bump a couple of years ago in the taxpayer contributions to PERA (the public employee retirement fund), discussions about enterprise zones and the idea of 'privatizing' Pinnacol, among other issues.
|Friday, March 16, 2012|
|7 Steps to Improve U.S. Competitiveness|
On the Harvard Business Review blog Harold Sirkin and Richard Lesser argue that America is “poised for a manufacturing renaissance” and offer seven recommendations to improve U.S. competitiveness including:
1. Political leaders from both parties should use the bully pulpit to educate the business community and the public on the new math of global manufacturing.
2. The government needs to reform the U.S. tax system, then leave it alone for a while. The U.S. tax code currently is a deterrent to business…
3. Washington needs to get serious about leveling the playing field. While there's always risk of a trade war, all countries need to play by the same rules — and government's job is to enforce those rules.
4. The government needs to rethink regulations… The speed of our regulatory processes must also be addressed; excessive delays encourage shifting investments to other locales.
5. The government needs to focus on talent development to ensure that Americans are prepared for the 21st century workplace. This is an area where we need to think strategically.
6. Washington needs to focus on infrastructure. Every infrastructure problem — decaying bridges, congested highways and ports, overcrowded airports and outdated air traffic control systems, weaknesses in the electric grid, and inadequate broadband spectrum — costs us dearly.
7. Washington should encourage foreign companies to manufacture in the United States. TheUnited States offers the lowest-cost manufacturing platform in the developed world today.
Their full post can be found here.
|Pinnacol Privatization Still a Bad Idea|
Early in the 2012 session of the Colorado Legislature, Governor John Hickenlooper and the board of Pinnacol made a major push to privatize the ‘insurer of last resort’ for workers compensation. Pinnacol as now structured is a quasi-public state-charted organization with the state conferring special tax breaks. It was set up many years ago after the State of Colorado basically ran the program into the ground.
Since then, Pinnacol has provided stability to the workers compensation program. Private sector employers pay reasonable rates and injured workers are assured of having access to money in the event they need it. However, money hungry pols have been eying the Pinnacol surpluses and trying to figure out how to get their hands on them for things completely unrelated to workers compensation. They are proposing that to allow Pinnacol to go private, the state would take a 40 percent stake in the company.
The idea met stiff resistance from the business community and appeared to be tabled. But the Governor is once again trolling for support. The result as explained in this story in the Denver Business Journal: still stiff resistance from the business community.
The normally business-aware governor is out of step on this issue. It’s coming off as a money-grab that does not reflect well on him. One of the businesspeople in the article referred to it as a hidden tax increase.
The Chamber’s natural reflex is to support privatization based on the general belief that markets work better than government in the efficient delivery of most services. This proposal, however, is hardly privatization in the common sense of the word. It starts out with a 40 percent boat anchor tied to it then proceeds to annually give money to the state government for pet projects. In essence, insurance premiums paid by Colorado businesses would be used for something other than their intended purpose. Furthermore, having the state government as a strong minority partner gives Pinnacol a huge competitive advantage. It’s hard to see how that will translate into a competitive environment that will keep workers comp premiums in check.
At a base level you can see how this type of arrangement benefits the Pinnacol board of directors and state politicians. What is really, really hard to see is how this benefits the people paying the bill:Colorado businesses.
|Small Biz Confidence Edges Up Slightly|
According to the latest Small-Business Optimism Index of the National Federation of Independence Business, small companies are slowing getting more confident about the economy. You can find their report here.
|Thursday, March 15, 2012|
|Fort Collins Chamber Best in the West|
Brag alert: this post is pure self-celebration, something I rarely do on this blog. The Western Association of Chamber Executives (www.waceonline.com) honored the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce with three communications awards at its annual convention in February. WACE has member chambers in 15 western states and British Columbia. The Chamber won the Outstanding Communications Achievement Award (first place) and two Merit Awards (second place) for our website (www.fortcollinschamber.com) and our weekly electronic e-newsletter Chamber SmartBrief Weekly.
The Chamber has been working on its communications and branding over the past two years, so it was nice to get the external recognition that we're making progress. We're just getting started and have a lot more to do, but so far so good. All of the staff has been involved but particular thanks to Kim Medina, Ann Hutchison and Jamie Grim. Thanks to the Board for pushing us and providing the financial resources this has required. Finally, thanks to our partners Toolbox Creative (www.toolboxcreative.com) and Old Town Media (www.oldtownmediainc.com).
Here's the story in Western Association of Chamber Executives Insider.
|Tuesday, March 13, 2012|
|CSU in NCAA Tournament|
Colorado State University’s men’s basketball team is in the NCAA Tournament! It’s only the second time in the past 22 years. Congratulations to Head Coach Tim Miles and his team. They’ve put ‘fun’ back in Moby Arena in recent years. Under Coach Miles the team has made strong and steady progress over the past 5 years. And, he’s doing it right by recruiting good players who are also good young men.
First up on Thursday is Murray State, 30-1, champions of the Ohio Valley Conference.
One and done or more NCAA Tournament fun? We’ll know soon enough. In the meantime, enjoy the buzz. It’s one of the great things about being a college town – hope springs eternal, the future is bright.
|Monday, March 5, 2012|
|Colorado is Slimmest State|
Once again Colorado is the skinniest state in the nation. That’s according to a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being poll. In Colorado, 18.5% of residents are obese compared to a national average of 26.1%. The chubbiest state is West Virginia at 35.3% followed by Delaware, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. You can find the poll results here.
|Workers in Demand, Skills in Short Supply|
Lots of people are out of work or under-employed, yet, companies are having trouble hiring people. How can that be? The short answer is that the country is part way through a gradual realignment of labor in response to waves of technological innovations. Said another way, technology is outpacing the current skills of many people to do the work employers need done. I hear this frequently from area employers and it's a national problem as shown in this story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
In time this situation will correct itself. Employers will pay for the skilled employees they need and education institutions and workers will respond to the demand. In the meantime, we'll continue to see stories like this one.
|Friday, March 2, 2012|
|Why Not Fort Collins|
A reporter called recently and said, “We know why companies locate in Fort Collins/Larimer County, but we don’t know why some companies consider us but locate elsewhere.” Her question: Why would a company hesitate to come here?
There it was: out in the open. It’s something we chamber types and businesspeople talk about, but among ourselves. Yes, we also discuss it with public officials but with mixed results.
Basically my answer came down to two things:
- The government decision processes can be too slow and too uncertain. This is an unacceptable risk that companies will not accept when they have other viable options.
- City policy pushes too many costs and requirements onto business. Whether actual or perceived, the impression of some employers is that they are not a priority of local government.
If you’re so inclined, here’s the Coloradoan story. Also, the Chamber produced a ‘Jobs Agenda’ which is referenced in the story.
|Innovation Alive and Well in Fort Collins|
Colorado State University Ventures held its annual Technology Transfer Awards Ceremony & Reception on Wednesday evening. To show my geek-envy, I refer to it as a ‘nerdapalooza.”
The evening was filled with remarkably brainy people being handed their patent plaques for technology they had developed and gotten patented.
Everybody loves the idea of ‘growing our own companies’ and is charmed by ‘technology transfer.’ They’re nice concepts but moving research from someone’s computer or lab bench into a commercially viable venture requires a lot of work and know-how. That’s where CSU Ventures comes in. They are a wholly owned subsidiary of the Colorado State University Research Foundation (CSURF). CSU Ventures’ job is to manage the technology transfer activities of CSU.
The awards event was very well done and a great reminder that we have a first-rate research university with first-rate researchers doing amazing things.
To get your geek on, you can go here to read more about this year’s honorees.
|Tuesday, February 28, 2012|
|Colorado is Nation’s 2nd Most Popular State|
The firm Public Policy Polling just released survey results of Americans’ perceptions of the 50 states. The top five most popular states are:
#4 South Dakota
|Tuesday, February 21, 2012|
|“Certainty is Our New Religion Now”|
During a recent conversation with primary employers, one of them said “Certainty is our new religion now.” This statement received universal agreement.
We were talking about how businesses are approaching all decisions but especially the siting of new facilities. The point of this saying is that in the current political and economic environment companies won’t take unnecessary risks. Business decision-makers are operating in extremely tight decision windows and won’t accept risks, especially from slow moving or unfriendly governments. Companies need to know that a decision will get made in a timely manner with a minimum of political drama. If they can’t get that in one locale, they’ll drop that community from the list and move on.
So, to be competitive at attracting and keeping base employers, communities must provide certainty and speed.
|Uncertainty Impacts Business Hiring|
The question “How’s business?” is one of my favorite conversation starters. The answers I receive give me an overall sense about what is going on in the business community. The short version of what I’m hearing from small companies is that the economy feels better but isn’t great and uncertainty is causing them to be cautious.
This general sentiment was borne out in a Gallup poll of small businesses released last week. A weak economy and lack of demand were cited as reasons for not hiring new people but specifically highlighted by Gallup were rising health care costs and government regulations. The result is that 85 percent of respondents said they are not looking to hire.
A takeaway from the poll is that significant uncertainty remains. My guess is that will be the case until the presidential election this fall and even beyond as people sort out the policy direction of the next administration.
|Tuesday, February 14, 2012|
|Should CSU Build an On-Campus Stadium (Part 2)?|
The discussion continues about whether or not Colorado State University should build a new, larger football stadium on the main campus. I blogged about it last month and wrote about it in a column in Sunday’s Coloradoan. Don’t look for any piercing insights! The column can be summed up thusly: Hats off to CSU leaders for thinking big and lots of questions still remain to be answered.
The Fort Collins Coloradoan ran a story today about CSU starting the process to hire architects, engineers and project managers to design and oversee construction of the stadium. University officials note that it’s for a ‘potential’ project.
I don’t know if the project is potential or real, but I do know that cocktail parties and any other gathering of two or more people in Fort Collins have gotten a lot more interesting! It’s the top topic and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
|Tuesday, February 7, 2012|
|Minimum Wage Goes Up...Again|
Colorado’s minimum wage went up on January 1 by 28 cents to $7.64 per hour. Article XVIII, Section 15, of the Colorado Constitution requires the Colorado minimum wage to be adjusted annually for inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. All the forms and information you need can be found on the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment website.
Minimum wage laws are very popular with the public. However, that doesn’t mean they’re good policy. I was reminded of that recently while talking to a local restaurateur. Forcing him to pay more, especially as he was coping with the recession, was a hardship on him AND his employees (some of whose hours were reduced) AND the people he couldn’t afford to hire. To remain in business, he can’t just absorb those costs and in the downturn he certainly couldn’t pass them on to his customers. His options were pretty limited, so he had to hold the line on payroll by expecting more from fewer people.
This is an example of the unintended consequences of mandates. The Chamber supports allowing the market between employers and employees to determine wages and opposes government mandated wage rates and benefits, which are intrusive and create a financial burden for small business in particular.
For more information on the topic, here’s a newly released Issues Brief by the National Center for Policy Analysis titled ‘Minimum Wage Myths.’
|Tuesday, January 31, 2012|
|PVHS & UCH = University of Colorado Health|
Fort Collins-based Poudre Valley Health System and the University of Colorado Hospital announced today the details of their new partnership, which include:
- A new name:University of Colorado Health
- New logos
- New executive leadership structure – PVHS’s President & CEO Rulon Stacey is the new Chief Executive Officer of University of Colorado Health and University of Colorado Hospital President & CEO Bruce Schroffell is the President and Chairman of the Board of the new organization.
- New governing board made up of people from PVHS and UCH.
Information on the new arrangement can be found at www.pvhs.org and here’s a Question & Answer document distributed by PVHS officials earlier today.
Such changes are being driven by pressures to do more for less. All doctors groups and hospitals are being impacted by demographic shifts, government policy and the need to balance access, quality and costs.
What does this change mean to the greater Fort Collins area? For the time-being, it doesn’t look like new partnership will impact health care employment in the area. How this impacts the involvement of the health care system in the community is a big unknown, probably even for the new UHC board and its leaders.
I guess the real answer is ‘time will tell,’ but it appears that leaders of the new health care system are working hard to get strategically positioned to meet the increasing challenges of providing quality health care in a rapidly changing environment.
|Monday, January 23, 2012|
|Fort Collins: Motor City|
Fort Collins is the new ‘motor city?’ Well, maybe so, at least according to a profile piece January 23 on Fox News about the Colorado State University’s Engine and Energy Conversion Lab. It’s titled “America's New 'Motor City'? Colorado city becoming a growing hub for green auto technology.” Long a leader in engines research and technology, the EECL is now more in vogue than ever as fuel efficiency grows in importance.
The ‘Engines Lab’ is on North College in the old Fort Collins Power Plant on the south bank of the PoudreRiver. The city owns the building but leases it to CSU. Just last week the City Council approved the expansion of the lab on the site.
The lab is a great example of how innovative and entrepreneurial communities can ‘grow their own’ jobs.
|Tuesday, January 10, 2012|
|Should CSU Build an On-Campus Stadium?|
Should Colorado State University build an on-campus football stadium to replace Hughes Stadium? Since new CSU Athletic Director Jack Graham posited the idea right after he was hired in early December, it has created an intense buzz in the community.
Price tags vary but such an undertaking would cost between $70 million and $150 million with some saying it would take $200 million.
Is it a good idea? I don’t know, and the Chamber doesn’t have a position on it, yet. However, considering an on-campus stadium has merit, so it was good to see CSU President Tony Frank put an exploratory group in place and commit to an open process with the CSU and Fort Collins communities.
One thing that has always puzzled me as a relative newcomer to the community (9 years) is how quiet the town seems during home football games. How is it possible to have an event with 20,000+ people and hardly notice? Much of the reason is the location of Hughes Stadium. It’s possible to go to the game and largely bypass the community. Some would say that’s good relative to congestion and neighborhood issues; others would argue that it dissipates the economic benefit of having a Division I football program and the energy that goes with being a college town.
So far there has been great coverage by the Fort Collins Coloradoan. The paper has given the story a lot of play and seems to be committed to a full vetting of the issue.
If you have an opinion about the on-campus stadium idea, feel free to drop me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Wednesday, January 4, 2012|
|Crisis of Leadership, Not Capitalism|
On this blog and in the local print media, I’ve repeatedly advocated for and defended the merits of capitalism. In that spirit, here’s an opinion piece on Bloomberg.com by Clive Crook in which he argues that we suffer a crisis of leadership, not a crisis of capitalism.