2015 a Winner for Chamber
Let me start by saying ‘thank you’ for being part of the Chamber family and wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. It’s hard to believe another year has flashed by so quickly.
I wanted to provide you with a report on the Chamber’s work and results over the past year. The short summary is that 2015 was a great year for the Chamber and the community.
- Funds to widen North I-25. The Chamber is a key leader in the effort to secure the money to widen I-25 to 3 lanes each way between Highway 14 and Highway 66 just north of Longmont. Fort Collins Chamber members donated over $100,000 to the lobbying effort, and I am the convener of the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance. The innumerable activities can’t be listed here, but some of the top accomplishments and activities include:
- Next year a ‘climbing lane’ will be built on the 2-mile hill southbound I-25 just south of the Berthoud exit
- Over the next two years the bridges over Crossroads will be widened to accommodate 2 additional lanes (one each way)
- A long-term federal highway bill was passed (called the FAST Act) that includes money for which Colorado qualifies
- Colorado submitted a ~$90M proposal for federal Presidential Challenge Grant monies to raise and widen bridges over the St. Vrain, Little Thompson, Big Thompson and Poudre Rivers with an answer expected by mid-January
- The Fix North I-25 Business Alliance has worked with the coalition of local governments along I-25 to create short list of priorities and a lobbying plan, including the Fix Colorado Roads Act which proposes asking voters to approve transportation bonding
- Positioning 2016 to be ‘the Year of Transportation’ in Colorado with transportation funding being a top priority of legislative leaders and the Governor’s office
- Starting to build a statewide coalition of business groups concerned about transportation funding, Fix Colorado Roads, FixColoradoRoads.com
- Retained a balanced City Council. The Chamber was arguably the key factor in maintaining a City Council that is business-supportive. While most residents and business people are focused on their interests, activists are focused on imposing an agenda on the community that slows or stops population growth by damaging the local economy. Control of the local city government is important to that end. I know, that sounds alarmist and absurd on the surface, but it is true. In the face of this situation, the Chamber Board has made local politics a top priority. In the April 2015 elections, 3 of 4 Chamber-endorsed candidates won.
- Helped shape and pass a ballot measure for local public capital projects. The Chamber’s Local Legislative Affairs Committee provided significant input to the list of projects included under Ballot Issue #1, which was a 10 year renewal of a ¼ cent sales tax for public infrastructure. The Board endorsed the measure and the Chamber supported the work of the campaign committee. The measure passed with 81 percent of the vote and will generate approximately $85M for projects over the next 10 years.
- Led the campaign to fund street maintenance. Chamber leaders led the campaign to renew the street maintenance tax which is used to repave and maintain Fort Collins streets. Like the item mentioned above, this ¼ cent tax will generate about $85M over a decade. The measure passed with 85 percent of the vote.
- Advocate for business at City Hall. The Chamber attended dozens of meetings at City Hall this year including every City Council meeting and retreat. The list of issues tracked and commented on is extensive. We also launched a new communications tool called ‘The 2 Minute Update’ that compresses hours of meetings into 120 seconds.
- Earned 5-Star Reaccreditation. Last year I reported that we had applied for reaccreditation. We learned in March that the Chamber had retained its 5-Star rating. The Fort Collins Chamber is the only such rated chamber of commerce in Colorado. It’s a high standard to maintain, and we are very proud to do so.
- Paid off the mortgage. The Chamber has served Fort Collins since 1904 and has been located in several places in the greater downtown area, including at our current location since 1972. Forty-three years after buying the old Sears catalog store at 225 S. Meldrum, the Chamber paid off the mortgage in May. The market value of the building is approximately $1.2M.
- Financially strong. The Chamber’s annual budget continues to grow – now at $1.2M, as does membership, which is now at 1,171 members. In 2015 we grew by a net of 50 members. Reserves are at $392,000. We have an outside audit done annually, and as has happened in recent years, the one for 2014 was ‘clean’, meaning no reportable conditions.
- Most successful campaign in Chamber’s history. A key reason we are financially strong is the annual total resource campaign, known as Moving Fort Collins Forward. This fall’s campaign generated $728,000 making it the most successful fund raising campaign in the Chamber’s history. Over 11 weeks 70 volunteers secured support from 480 different sponsors / donors to fund chamber events and programs and key strategic community initiatives like Fix North I-25. The top individual producers of the campaign were Yvonne Myers, Columbine Health Systems (for an amazing 5th year in a row), J.J. Gerard of Ed Carroll Motors, and Dan Dennie of Banner Health. The top producing teams were Columbine Health Systems (also for an amazing 5th year in a row), the Red Carpet Committee, and Ed Carroll Motors / Tynan’s Auto Dealers team.
- Strong regional agenda. The joint state issues committee of the Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland Chambers of Commerce and Upstate Colorado Economic Development advocated for a strong regional agenda that focused on widening I-25, workforce development, energy development and water. Showcased regional cooperation and agenda at the Regional Issues Summit.
- Strong regional leadership development. Underpinning the success of regional cooperation is Leadership Northern Colorado, a joint leadership development program of the Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland Chambers of Commerce and the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado and Community Foundation Serving Greeley and Weld County. On June 23, 29 people graduated from the 6th class of LNC. In December the 2016 class of 37 was announced.
- Local leadership programs thrive. CSU President Dr. Tony Frank was the keynote speaker in May at the graduation of 33 people who finished the 2014-15 Class of Leadership Fort Collins. Also, the Envision Young Professionals held monthly networking and professional development programs featuring outstanding CEOs and other community resources.
- Front door of the community. Twenty years ago chambers of commerce were the source of information about a community. That near monopoly disappeared with the explosion of the World Wide Web. Even so, we still serve as the ‘community’s front door.’ In 2015 we serviced 713 walk-in, phone and online inquiries for relocation information. In addition to these direct inquiries, we had 5,671 page-views of the Chamber’s relocation website pages.
- Rebuilt and relaunched Chamber website, FortCollinsChamber.com.
- Helped our members save money. Two programs in particular are noteworthy: members saved $17,978 using the Chamber’s bulk mailing program; members saved $5,208 by purchasing bus passes through the Chamber.
- Strong events. 5,145 people attended chamber events this year. This would include member events like Business After Hours as well as major programs such as the 4th annual ‘Health Care in Your Future’ summit, the Small Business of the Year breakfast, annual dinner and the annual tradeshow.
- Ambassadors of the business community. The Chamber’s Red Carpet Committee – 148 people strong – is a remarkable group. They held 96 new member receptions, honored 12 Businesses of the Month, and undertook 5 community service projects, and, as noted above, had the 2nd place team in the Moving Fort Collins Forward! Numbers aside, the Red Carpet Committee plays a huge role in welcoming and assimilating companies into the Fort Collins business community.
- Strong leaders, engaged board. The Chamber continues a tradition of being well-led. This year’s Executive Committee included Chair Yvonne Myers (Columbine Health Systems), Chair-Elect Kevin Unger (UCHealth), Treasurer Jason Ells (Cushman & Wakefield), President David May, Lucia Liley (Liley Law) and Connie Dohn (Dohn Construction). The entire board is engaged and committed, providing insightful, strategic leadership for the Chamber and business community.
I’ll end where I began with a heart-felt ‘thank you’ to you and best wishes during this holiday season!