An economic development resolution for the new year

Of all the signals we picked up during the past year that showed Northern Colorado’s business fortunes turning upward, among the strongest radiated from economic development offices on either side of the Weld-Larimer county line.

The emergence of Premier Colorado, the hastily coined name of a new collaboration between the Larimer-based Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp. and Weld’s Upstate Colorado, was one of the year’s most welcome success stories.

Even better are the reports that the cooperative efforts of the two groups are gathering momentum as 2006 draws to a close.

Separate initiatives by the two groups to develop economic “clusters” focused on clean and renewable energy, a subject of a Business Report editorial several months ago, appear now to be coming together.

It is encouraging that Upstate Colorado officials, who had early last summer explored formation of renewable energy cluster, are now in discussion with organizers of the more fully developed Clean Energy Cluster in Larimer County.

Until now, Weld County interests were omitted from that cooperative development effort, which includes the NCEDC, the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce, Colorado State University, the city of Fort Collins and Larimer County.

As the Business Report had noted earlier, Weld County is uniquely positioned, with abundant renewable energy resources including wind-power generating sites and biofuel potential, to become a major player in the regional clean-and-renewable energy picture.

With Weld County’s strengths added to the Clean Energy Cluster effort, as they appear likely to be, the greater the potential for commercial development of the energy sector in Northern Colorado in a way that provides jobs and “brands” the region as a national center for energy innovation.

Meanwhile, Premier Colorado’s first venture into the business-recruiting world, a mid-October trip to an Atlanta resort where economic developers courted corporate site selectors, is bearing the sort of fruit we all hoped for.

Two companies – both major employers – have said they plan visits to Northern Colorado in early 2007, according to Upstate Colorado president Larry Burkhardt.

Our wish for the new year is that the cooperative relationship between the region’s two economic development agencies that bloomed during 2006 will continue to blossom in 2007. If that work continues, Northern Colorado’s economy wins.