LAEC, Longmont negotiate consolidation

LONGMONT – The goal: Consolidate city of Longmont and Longmont Area Economic Council economic development efforts to save money and be more efficient.

How to get there: Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.

Representatives from the city and from the LAEC are still “in the early days” of figuring out how to move city programs on small-business economic development and entrepreneurship over to the LAEC, said Shawn Lewis, Longmont’s assistant city manager. The LAEC is a public-private partnership that currently receives about half of its funding from the city – $180,000 this year – with the rest coming from private companies. The LAEC primarily has been focused on recruiting and retaining primary employers — those whose goods are sold outside the city’s limits and generate higher-paying jobs, while the city’s programs have been geared toward helping smaller local businesses, especially retailers.

Funding is the most important part of negotiations, Lewis said. City funds to LAEC are expected to increase in the future to give the group more resources to work with small businesses, Lewis said. To date, the LAEC has worked only with “primary employers,” or companies that sell their goods and services outside of the community.

Longmont has used state and federal grants to pay for various small-business economic-development programs, Lewis said. Those programs are slated to continue at the same rate that they have been in the past, he said. In the future, LAEC may take over marketing and processing applications from companies looking to be involved in those programs, and the city would be a “bank” for government funds, he said.

“Our first and foremost goal is to make sure LAEC is adequately resourced to take on the programs that the city has been doing,” Lewis said.

At the same time, LAEC’s private-sector funding is “a tremendous strength” that needs to be supported, Lewis said.

Member companies such as Amgen Colorado pay fees to be involved in the group, said Andy Bade, chairman of the LAEC’s board of directors and executive director of business services at Amgen Colorado, which consists of the company’s operations in Boulder and Longmont. Individuals, small companies and large companies all pay different rates to belong to the group, he said.

Funding also is an important negotiation point to LAEC members.

“For more responsibilities, there would be a need for additional funding,” Bade said.

What happens to economic-development employees who work for the city of Longmont in the future also is part of the negotiation, Lewis said. Some city staff could “transition” to LAEC as part of a new contract, Lewis said. Or their jobs may be eliminated and they could apply for jobs at LAEC, he said. Brad Power, the city’s economic development director, has declined to comment, as has Doug Bene, who works with the city’s “economic gardening” program.

“We haven’t finalized what that (staffing) will look like. It most likely would be part of the contract negotiations,” Lewis said.

All in all, there’s no “show-stopper” in negotiations so far, but many details remain to be worked out, Bade said.

Timing appears to be the third leg of the negotiation stool – the LAEC put its search for a new leader on hold. Former president John Cody left to be the director of economic development for the city of Thornton in August. A search committee had narrowed the candidate field to three, before it began consolidation negotiations.

A final contract between the city and LAEC could be done in the next couple of weeks, but city council approval could take an additional month, Lewis said.

LAEC wants to “get it worked out as soon as we can,” Bade said.

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