So, what is ‘economic development’ anyway?
Economic development has a two-part definition. It is:
- The process to create and maintain the conditions necessary for the conduct of profitable private sector trade and commerce (i.e., business climate),
- and the proactive programs to attract, start, expand, and retain business enterprises which provide employment for the community’s employed and underemployed (i.e., marketing).
Said another way, economic development is product development (helping create a community that is a good ‘product’ to sell) and marketing of that product.
Although this is overly simplistic, economic development activities can be generally grouped into three broad categories:
- Business retention and expansion. Employers already sited in the community are the greatest source of new jobs and wealth. They have already demonstrated a commitment to the community. Activities that keep in contact with those employers to serve and retain them can lead to opportunities for additional capital investment and jobs, if those companies expand. The Chamber plays a significant role in helping companies like Woodward, Avago, Hewlett-Packard, and others stay and expand in Fort Collins. The Chamber has a strong working partnership with the City of Fort Collins Office of Economic Health and the Northern Colorado Economic Development Corporation to work with primary employers looking to expand or that the community is at risk of losing.
- Business startups and formation. Entrepreneurship can be a big component in a community’s economic development strategy. This is especially the case in Fort Collins with its combination of highly-educated residents, a research university and successful high-tech and manufacturing firms. The two key organizations in Fort Collins working with start-ups are CSU Ventures and the Rocky Mountain Innosphere.
- Business recruitment. The final element is the attraction of firms from other locales. Recruitment includes marketing the location (collateral marketing material, website, trade shows, mailers, direct contact with prospects and site locators, etc), identifying prospects, tracking prospects, and managing the visits of prospects. The Northern Colorado Economic Alliance is responsible for recruiting primary employers to the area.