Successful Moving Fort Collins Forward! Campaign Buys Impact and Quality

As you know from the update in today’s Chamber SmartBrief e-Weekly, the Chamber’s annual Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign is over and was very successful. When the residual pledges and numbers finish coming in, campaign volunteers will have raised over $700,000 and recruited 100 new members in just 11 weeks. Very impressive!

But while we measure progress with numbers, what do they really mean?

First of all, as I’ve said in this space before, we don’t raise money for the sake of raising money. Back in May the Chamber Board had a retreat to talk about key challenges and opportunities in Northern Colorado. In essence, the question was “What do we want to accomplish by the end of next year, 2016?” Among other things, issues like securing $1B to widen I-25, helping companies find qualified workers and having an effective government affairs program were discussed.

Then over the summer, the Board’s priorities were shaped into specific ‘products’ that were included in the campaign, which kicked off just after Labor Day.

Here’s a sample of what gets done because of a successful campaign:

  • Fix North I-25 lobbying effort continues and enhanced. The Chamber is a key leader in the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance that is focused on securing funding to widen I-25 to 3 lanes each way between Highways 14 (in Fort Collins) and 66 (north of Longmont). The details here are numerous and a bit mind-numbing but we have a lobbying team under contract that is focused on several proposals in the upcoming session of the Colorado General Assembly, helping us build a statewide coalition of other business groups to press for more transportation funding, supporting our federal delegation’s efforts relative to the federal highway bill and determining the public’s support for various transportation funding options that may come to the ballot. Additionally, we have a public relations team and plan in place to help drive visibility and support. All of this continues and can be enhanced with the money raised during the campaign.
  • Workforce initiatives. The odd situation of workers struggling to find work and companies not being able to find talent continues. This so-called ‘skills gap’ exists in many parts of the country, including here. With money raised during the campaign, we will be able to help develop a plan to address the situation including providing better tools for business HR professionals and recruiters.
  • Represent business perspective with government. As noted above, the Fix North I-25 effort is big. But, it’s not the whole story. We have a regional plan focused on water development, workforce, energy and transportation, which is being led by the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance. NCLA is the joint state issues committee of the Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland chambers. Together we retain a Denver-based lobbyist to represent our interests. Additionally, we have active representation at all City Council meetings and various other local government meetings. Furthermore, we support the work of a sister group, Citizens for a Sustainable Economy that is doing economic research and communicating directly with the public about which local elected officials and candidates have a good grasp on effective economic policies. The campaign helps keep all of this functioning.
  • Regional Issues Summit. Education, labor, water, air pollution, traffic issues, and economic development are regional in scope. Through the aegis of NCLA, the area chambers bring experts together to provide the latest insights on big regional issues. Money raised during the campaign help underwrite the event.
  • Insights on how healthcare reform is impacting business and the economy of Northern Colorado. Love or hate the Affordable Care Act (aka ‘Obamacare’), it certainly has roiled the health insurance and health care provider landscape with significant impacts on small businesses and individuals. Money secured during the Moving Fort Collins Forward! campaign will pay for the Health Care in Your Future Summit next spring during which the latest intel on where health care policies are headed will be shared along with updates on the rapidly evolving Northern Colorado health care market.
  • Business development programs and events. ‘Networking’ is a key business development and ‘friend-making’ function. Due to the campaign, some of the Chamber’s networking events continue and will get even better. The Annual Golf Classic, the Annual Dinner Celebration, Fridays at the Chamber and Connect@Lunch are stronger because of sponsor support generated during the campaign.
  • Tomorrow’s top employees and community leaders get a leg up. Are leaders born or made? Maybe both but at the Chamber we lean toward ‘made.’ To that end, we have 3 great leadership programs that get a big boost because of the campaign: Leadership Fort Collins, Leadership Northern Colorado and Envision Young Professionals. Some speaker costs, some event costs and scholarships are covered.
  • Small business gets the recognition it is due. We are a small business association based on the fact that the majority of our members have 20 or fewer employees. The Small Business of the Year Luncheon is paid for by the campaign and lets us celebrate small companies that together bring big benefit to our community.
  • Great national author and speaker. Now this one didn’t get completely paid for yet, but thanks to the campaign we are halfway to having enough money to bring in a nationally-renowned author and speaker like Daniel Pink.
  • Quality of the Chamber’s facility. The Chamber’s building at 225 South Meldrum is heavily used by our members and the community. During the campaign we had a significant number of members step up to help with services to clean and maintain the building and to replace worn out furnishings and equipment.

And on and on.

Again, money is an important measure, but what it buys is the real point. Because the campaign was successful we can impact big issues that matter to the livability and economic prosperity of our area, effectively speak up for business with government, provide first-rate informative events, grow tomorrow’s leaders, and properly maintain an important gathering place for our members and the community.

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The teams of volunteers are listed in the SmartBrief eWeekly, but I want to add my thanks and congratulations to Moving Fort Collins Forward! Campaign Co-Chairs Chris Otto (EKS&H) and John Carroll (Ed Carroll Motors). They just led the most successful fund raising campaign in the 111-year history of the Chamber.

At their side every step of the way was Chamber Chair Yvonne Myers (Columbine Health Systems). Yvonne is a lead-from-the-front style leader. Once again, for the 5th year in a row she was the campaign’s top producer as was her Columbine team. Remarkable!

Thank you to the Vice Chairs for lending your prestigious names and otherwise supporting the campaign: Eric Adams, Wells Fargo; Mark Driscoll, First National Bank; David Everitt, Everitt Companies; Dr. Tony Frank, CSU; Kathy Jack-Romero, Coloradoan; Lucia Liley, Liley Law; Curt Richardson, Otterbox and Blue Ocean Enterprises; Rick Sutton, Banner Health; Kevin Unger, University of Colorado Health; and Bob Wilson, Columbine Health Systems.

Thank you to all of the companies with teams in the campaign. They are listed in the eWeekly and include Columbine Health Systems (Yvonne Myers, team captain), Banner Health (Dan Dennie), Auto Dealers which included Tynans and Ed Carroll Motor Company (J.J. Gerard), Eide Bailly (Cherene Subjeck), First National Bank (Ken DeSimone), Flood and Peterson (Nick Roe), Guaranty Bank (Rory Mill), Home State Bank (Deb Kelly), Red Carpet Committee (Craig Vollmer and Kim Martin), University of Colorado Health (Diane Jackson), Wells Fargo (Kevin McDonald) and Western States Bank (Rich Pearson). The team captains are awesome and from a staff perspective we thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know them and their team members. Our companies have great people working for them.

A big thank you to all of the Chamber staff. They dig in and back up their assigned teams with enthusiasm, energy and professionalism. To Kim Medina, the Campaign Coordinator, you do an amazing job.

Finally, thank you to our campaign sponsors Otter Products and Blue Ocean Enterprises. Curt Richardson, founder of both, stepped up behind us 5 years ago to help breathe life into Moving Fort Collins Forward! at a time when it was an unproven concept. A lot of the great things we’ve been able to do in the following years was made possible from his initial and enduring support.