May: Stop petty harassment of Woodward

Jan 6, 2015 | Economy, Government & Policy

Are you feeling fully secure about your household income? For those of you working, do you feel secure about your job?

Are you working at a job that matches your education and skill level? Do you make the income you think you deserve?

As investment advisers like to say, results may vary, but for the majority of people in Fort Collins the answers to these questions are no, no, no and no.

Do you believe city government should encourage companies to leave town or cut back on their workforces? Do you think city officials should act in a manner that discourages companies from opening or expanding in Fort Collins?

In your opinion, is it in the best interests of the community for city government officials to harass and provoke the city’s key employers?

The answers for most of us would be no, no and no. Of course not.

Do you believe the community should honor and celebrate its founders? Do you think city government should eventually fix a street that it has targeted for improvements for 25 years? Most of us would probably answer yes and yes.

I’m asking these questions to put in perspective the odd harassment campaign of a City Council member and his political handler against a Fort Collins company, Woodward.

The council member — who I won’t name for this publicity-grabbing move — regularly rails against supporting companies including Woodward, opposes naming the 30 acres that Woodward donated to the citizens of Fort Collins after the pioneer family that first settled the land, and opposes making improvements to the street north of the Woodward property.

Regarding Lincoln Avenue, improvements — including adding sidewalks — have been on the city’s streets master plan since 1989. That’s 24 years before Woodward decided to locate nearby.

He finally provoked the company into sending a letter calling him out for his behavior. In my 35-year chamber career, this is the first time I’ve seen a company harassed to this level and feel compelled to push back.

This kind of treatment sends the wrong message to existing primary employers and others interested in locating to the area. Maybe that’s the councilman’s goal.

If that’s the case, it runs against the grain of public opinion. An improving economy notwithstanding, most Fort Collins citizens believe city government should encourage and support the creation of good-paying jobs.

When asked about economic development strategies, 92 percent of Fort Collins residents support community leaders working to retain existing employers and 67 percent support waiving some taxes and development fees for Fort Collins companies trying to expand.

When residents were asked, “Would you say that retaining Woodward … a company headquartered here in Fort Collins, should be a top priority for the City of Fort Collins,” 85 percent said is should be a priority. Fifty-four percent gave it top priority.

Final question: Is playing politics with the residents’ jobs and the economic health of the community ever a good idea?

David May is president and CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce. Reach him at [email protected].

This column was originally published with The Fort Collins Coloradoan January 2, 2015.