9 Things Local Business Leaders are Thinking About
Recently, I completed a round of small group and individual discussions with business leaders in Fort Collins to determine what was on their minds relative to the community. Here’s a list of some of the more frequently mentioned issues:
- Are we competitive as a community? Successful businesspeople are successful because they take a clear-eyed look at facts and act on them. When applying that to the community, it’s not always clear how we’re doing. City officials tell us that time in the development review process and business costs are competitive, even cheap. Anecdotally, we hear another story. That’s just one example. The point being raised is that it would be advisable if we moved past rhetoric and took a hard look at how Fort Collins really stacks up. In short, do a competitive analysis.
- What will happen when the Boomers bail out of the workforce? 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day in America When they retire, they take decades of experience with them. Companies are looking ahead trying to understand what that means to their ability to service their clients and customers. One idea was for the Chamber to partner with other groups to study the issue in more detail.
- What is happening to the area’s high tech sector? We have just reached an inflection point where mobile computing is now more prominent than desktop computing. How does that impact the high tech sector of our economy? Are we well-positioned? Not well-positioned? There was interest expressed in understanding this better.
- The City Council is a concern because of rhetoric and policies that are anti-business. The big question is ‘What is going to happen two years from now during the next election?’ This was a universal concern. Business leaders cited examples of how long it takes to get things done with city government and foresee how that could get dramatically worse. There was a sense of relief that the community was able to retain Woodward in spite of a challenging business environment.
- Expand I-25 to Longmont. One person said, “I-25 is a dangerous mess. We all go south, we all use I-25.” Travel times to points south including Denver International Airport were cited many times as a growing issue.
- Water development and storage is becoming a critical issue. One businessperson said it well: “Boy, if the recent droughts and fires aren’t a wakeup call about how vulnerable our water supply is then I don’t know what is. We have a problem.”
- Fix the airport. While not as commonly mentioned as some of the other issues, when the airport came up it was mentioned with some vigor. The Fort Collins-Loveland Airport is an important part of the transportation system of Northern Colorado. Loss of the airport’s only commercial carrier makes it harder to maintain and improve the airport.
- Fund the street system. Unlike some communities, Fort Collins has done a good job of getting voter support to improve and maintain its street system. What happens when existing taxes dedicated to transportation expire?
- Tell the business story and hold elected officials accountable. The Chamber launched a program earlier this year called Fort Collins Works (www.FortCollinsWorks.com). It has served as a tool to advance the business community’s economic vision for the community and provide basic tools for explaining economic development and the importance of primary employers. Fort Collins Works received strong praise during my interviews. Expanding it was encouraged, especially the idea of enhancing the City Council Scorecard to make people aware of how elected officials are doing on job creation.
Many more things were discussed but the above were some of the more prominently mentioned issues. As the Chamber is preparing to launch its 2013 Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign, some of the above-mentioned items will be included.