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ARCHIVED  November 19, 1999

EcoDevo councils consider merger

Union of the Fort Collins and Loveland economic-development agencies seems inevitable, but timing is unclear, especially with the Loveland Economic Development Council close to naming a new executive director, members of a merger committee said last week.

The merger talks, broken off earlier this year, resumed Nov. 9 with six board members — three from each agency — forming a joint committee for the purpose of exploring formation of a regional economic-development group.

“I think both organizations seem to be committed positively to trying to make it happen,´ said Fort Collins lawyer Tim Dow, a member of the Fort Collins Economic Development Corp. board. “They are generally in agreement that the regional approach makes sense. The question is addressing the programming issues and timing.”

Dow is joined by Fort Collins board member Ed Stoner and chairman Ralph Waldo on the committee. Loveland’s Economic Development Council is represented by board chairman Scott Bray and members Ron Schneider and Dale Olhausen.

Loveland’s EDC board had narrowed applicants for the job of replacing Executive Director Don Churchwell to four candidates, and were set to interview finalists this week.

Bray said that while the merger talks complicate the interview process, he was optimistic the two agencies would eventually combine.

“It feels like that’s what is in the future,” Bray said. “Obviously, there are some issues that need to be worked out, but I feel like we’re headed in that direction. We’re going to continue to work on that, even as we replace our director.”

Issues including location, leadership and relationships with sponsors are enough to deal with without the process of hiring a new director clouding the merger issue even further, Bray said.

“It’s very difficult for us,” he said. “If Fort Collins had not taken the merger off the table earlier in the year, I think we would have been better off.”

The four finalists for the Loveland job were aware of the process the committee had initiated, and that questions about the merger would figure into their interviews.

“I think we’ve got candidates who understand the potential for this,” Bray said. “They may look at that as being a challenge. They may see opportunities there.”

Negotiators on both sides also are concerned with the potential loss of revenue if the two organizations merge, because investors that now contribute to both might roll back the amount of their support to a single entity.

“There may be some people who would drop out, and there may be some who would reduce their overall contributions,” Dow said.

Crossover investors, those who support the development agencies in both cities, include public utilities such as Public Service Company of Colorado and U S West, the major banks, Hewlett-Packard Co., which has operations in both locations, and most other large manufacturers in the region.

Fort Collins EDC president Roland Mower and Churchwell both said they had not been parties to the merger negotiations, and neither would comment on the progress of the talks.

Union of the Fort Collins and Loveland economic-development agencies seems inevitable, but timing is unclear, especially with the Loveland Economic Development Council close to naming a new executive director, members of a merger committee said last week.

The merger talks, broken off earlier this year, resumed Nov. 9 with six board members — three from each agency — forming a joint committee for the purpose of exploring formation of a regional economic-development group.

“I think both organizations seem to be committed positively to trying to make it happen,´ said Fort Collins lawyer Tim Dow, a member of the Fort Collins Economic…

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