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 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.