The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce is very focused on creating a climate where businesses can locate here, expand and invest. In the process of doing so, jobs are created for area residents. Chamber leaders are in the revising our ‘jobs agenda’ but following is a preliminary list for your reading pleasure. 

Retain Woodward in Fort Collins and help the company expand. As a 57-year business resident of Fort Collins, Woodward has a long track record of being an outstanding corporate neighbor and employer. The company’s decision on where to build its new corporate headquarters complex is equal parts opportunity and peril for the community. Woodward will be presenting its plans for the Link-N-Greens site (northwest corner of Mulberry and Lemay) to the city’s Planning and Zoning Board on February 21. This item is the community’s #1 economic priority for 2013, by far.

Redevelop Foot Hills Mall. Fort Collins is still the retail trade center of Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming. The decline of the mall over the past decade, however, has eroded that standing. Purchase of the mall in 2012 by Alberta Development was very welcome. The redevelopment plans are exciting and visionary. 

Codify reasonable business assistance policies and procedures. Attractive places like Fort Collins do not need to ‘bribe’ businesses to locate in them by lavishing companies with lucrative incentives packages. However, incentives are an indication of a community’s attitude towards business and its willingness to be a good partner. Sometimes they can be a deal maker or breaker. The city government is in the middle of a process to review its incentive policies and procedures. When done, the City should adopt a reasonable policy towards business assistance.

Eliminate the use tax on Fort Collins manufacturers. Few Colorado communities impose a use tax on companies and ever fewer impose it on manufacturers. The fact that Fort Collins does creates a significant barrier to the attraction and expansion of primary employers. Waiving or reimbursing the tax to employers is not a ‘tax giveaway’ or ‘corporate welfare’ as some contend because it is a tax that should not be imposed anyway. Eliminating it removes a large job-killing obstacle and evens the playing field vis-a-vis other communities.

Implement the City of Fort Collins’ new strategic economic plan. Adopted in 2012, the plan is a good roadmap for creating good-paying jobs in Fort Collins. The plan is detailed and multi-faceted, but several of the recommendations should receive priority attention:

  • Emphasize entrepreneurship. In particular, the community, especially city government, should continue to support the work of the Rocky Mountain Innosphere.
  • Focus on clusters. The City should finish its work to update the cluster study, so that limited community resources can be used to yield the best economic benefit for the community.

Identify the gaps in workforce skills. Good data needs to be gathered on the current workforce’s skills and what employers need then work with the community college, university and others to fill those skills gaps.

* The use tax is a form of sales tax. It is “remitted to the City by the person storing, using, distributing or consuming the tangible personal property or taxable service within the City of Fort Collins.” Such parties must remit a use tax when a Colorado municipal sales tax of 3.85% has not been paid. City leaders contend that the use tax is suppose to equalize competition between vendors located in the City who collect Fort Collins sales tax and those located outside the City who do not charge Fort Collins sales tax. It is an incentive to make local purchases. The Chamber contends that for capital equipment intensive companies like manufacturers the use tax is a huge disincentive for being in Fort Collins.