[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]
ARCHIVED  November 1, 1996

City, FEDC promote common ground

FORT COLLINS – This city’s economic-development officials and city council are moving tentatively toward an accommodation after the divisive battles of the past.And while areas of disagreement likely will continue to exist, officials on both sides believe they can find common ground on some issues.
“I think we’ve seen some pretty interesting things that the city has done in economic development,´ said Roland Mower, president of the Fort Collins Economic Development Corp. “We’re not getting everything we ask for É but we are seeing some progress.”
That progress has come most prominently in the area of the city’s 3 percent sales-and-use tax, which manufacturers long have loathed. The tax was the centerpiece in the heated debate over Hyundai Electronics America, which eventually chose Eugene, Ore., for a $1.3 billion plant.
After a cooling-off period and repeated drafts, the City Council adopted a plan that allows existing manufacturers to apply for a tax rebate. The program is only temporary – two years – and does not apply to companies seeking to move operations into the area, ala Hyundai.
Mower also pointed to the city’s development-fee rebate program for manufacturers that are expanding. Both Symbios Logic Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. have received rebates, with HP recently announcing that it would give its rebate to the school district.
The city also agreed to recommend new areas for enterprise-zone designation, with Mower, assistant city manager Frank Bruno and Larimer County enterprise-zone administrator Lew Wymisner working on the plan.
“We knew that it wasn’t going to be fun, that it wasn’t going to be without pain,” Bruno said of the several hours the three spent answering questions posed by council members.
The city and Colorado State University are also working on a fiscal-impact model to determine the impact of major new employers seeking to come into the area. This initiative arose directly out of the Hyundai experience, when no one had a good idea what the incentive plan would cost.
And the city is working on a microloan program for small and startup businesses, along with a “Virtual Incubator” to promote startups.
The microloan program would likely involve some financing from the city and some from area lending institutions, with loans to small entrepreneurs and growing businesses in the amount of, say, $2,500 to $5,000.
“Have they done everything we’ve wanted them to do? No,” Mower said. But he added: “I think that we’re working better together.
“I think our relationship with the city is getting better on a daily basis.”
Bruno agreed, characterizing Mower as “one of the best economic-development professionals that I’ve seen.”
Mower, Bruno said, is “very, very sensitive to what this community’s values are all about.
“I think he’s a very skilled leader when it comes to economic development,” he said.
The Hyundai situation, Bruno said, was an “anomaly” in the city’s relations with Fort Collins’ economic-development agency. He said he thought the relationship was “pretty good then” but that both sides were put in a “lousy situation by that organization [Hyundai].”
Bruno cited one other example of progress in the city’s relations with the FEDC, namely adoption of a “protocol” for future economic-development issues. The two-page, informal document outlines how the city and the FEDC will work together when dealing with economic-development prospects. The purpose, he said, is to keep the Hyundai situation from repeating itself.
City officials, including some on the City Council who are perceived as virulently anti-growth, simply want sensible economic development, Bruno said.
“I really do think the city often is treated in an unfair light when it comes to economic development,” he said.
Bruno agreed that parties on both sides are seeking areas of agreement to move ahead in their relations. The city, he said, is “always trying to find ways to support economic-development initiatives without incentives.
“They are trying to consider these things in a very positive light and are looking for ways to enhance our economy.” The idea that the city doesn’t support economic development is “really hogwash,” he said.
For his part, Mower said, “It’s easier for me to talk to council members [now].”
As the city and the FEDC seek common ground, the economic-development agency continues to address several areas of concern to the city’s business community.
At the FEDC’s recent semiannual meeting, Mower highlighted four areas of concern for business. They included:
n Affordable housing.
n State and local tax policies.
n Diversity in the community.
n Skilled-labor shortage.
While affordable housing is being addressed by the city, the FEDC is working on several other initiatives. For example, Mower would like to see the use-tax rebate program made permanent, and possibly extended in some cases to companies moving into the area. He also seeks a repeal of the state’s personal-property tax and continued programs to alleviate the region’s skilled-labor shortage.
“For the long-term survival of this community, we need to continue to upgrade the skills of the community,” he said.
Mower emphasized that the FEDC’s role is not in business recruitment but in assisting companies that are here and fostering the conditions in which the business community will prosper. Active recruitment of new companies to the area – the FEDC does some, but not to the degree of a Weld or Pueblo county – would only exacerbate the problem of skilled-labor shortages, he said.
He added that he looks for “opportunities to strengthen the business climate but not at the expense of companies that are here,” indicating that bringing in many new employers would make it tougher for existing companies to find workers.
As the city and the FEDC continue making gestures, overtures and statements of good will, officials on both sides hope for additional reconciliation.Said Mower: “I’d rather be taking baby steps in the right direction than giant steps in the wrong direction.”
ÿ

FORT COLLINS – This city’s economic-development officials and city council are moving tentatively toward an accommodation after the divisive battles of the past.And while areas of disagreement likely will continue to exist, officials on both sides believe they can find common ground on some issues.
“I think we’ve seen some pretty interesting things that the city has done in economic development,´ said Roland Mower, president of the Fort Collins Economic Development Corp. “We’re not getting everything we ask for É but we are seeing some progress.”
That progress has come most prominently in the area of the city’s 3 percent…

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]

Related Content

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-interstitial zone="30"]