The city of Longmont, like many cities throughout the world, actively pursues innovation and entrepreneurial development as a strategy for economic development. The difference in Longmont, though, is that the community has spent decades building an environment that today offers all of the assets and amenities necessary to support a thriving 21st-century startup community.
Support for Longmont’s startup community starts with the real innovative and entrepreneurial talent that is being cultivated in the St. Vrain Valley School District and through the programs offered here by the Boulder County campus of Front Range Community College. The innovative programming in the classrooms of both is focused on meeting the challenges of this millennium by delivering a quality education that bridges the gaps for our future workforce, and ultimately helps to create long-term sustainable economic growth.
What does this look like in the classroom? It looks like K-12 students across the St. Vrain Valley School District preparing for successful STEM careers by partnering with industry to provide real-world work experiences, learning from experts in their fields to build websites, apps for a variety of mobile platforms, electronics, circuitry, robotics, biomedical, aerospace, environmental and structural and mechanical engineering projects. It looks like local industry collaborating with higher education through Front Range Community College to design and implement programs to help fill skills gaps in fields that range from machining to web design to craft brewing.
In addition to talent, Longmont has a history of investing in the real infrastructure needed to support innovation and entrepreneurship at every level. The prioritization of creating and maintaining a modern infrastructure is crucial to any city’s capacity for economic growth. Innovative infrastructure investments, such as Longmont’s buildout of the NextLight gigabit fiber optic network, support innovation by laying the foundation for entrepreneurs to thrive and grow. It allows for affordable and reliable utilities to offer businesses cost savings, better connectivity and increased productivity. Longmont’s infrastructure investments have always focused — and continue to focus — on what will be, encouraging forward movement by its citizens and the businesses that start and grow in the community.
Longmont fuels innovation in the community by supporting a network of creators, makers and entrepreneurs through the support of our local makerspace, TinkerMill, Startup Longmont, the NewTech Meetup group and the annual Longmont Startup Week, as well as the Longmont Community Foundation’s Ignite! grant fund that puts early-stage capital behind the ideas of Longmont entrepreneurs. Innovation is fueled at the TinkerMill by making equipment such as 3-D printers, laser cutters and tools available to the creators and makers in a community, as well as providing access to people who can support and teach others on how to operate, innovate and create with this equipment. Startup Longmont fuels innovation by creating a culture of collaboration in the community amongst makers, designers, creators, and entrepreneurs. The Longmont Community Foundation and Longmont Economic Development Partnership further fuel innovation by putting needed funding into ideas at a very early stage through the Ignite! grant and matching grant programs, helping to bring visions of new products to fruition.
Longmont supports innovation as an economic development strategy because technological advances and innovations can change the way you think about city life, workforce mobility, energy efficiency, and even fitness and sociological concerns. Innovation encourages education, leads to higher productivity, and inspires entrepreneurship, which in turn creates new businesses and new jobs, and intensifies competition. Innovation is a driver of growth and opportunity in any community. As a result of Longmont’s support for innovation and entrepreneurship, the city now boasts a wealth of inventors, entrepreneurs, researchers and innovation assets, has become an ideal home for startups at all stages of development, and is starting to be recognized as a 21st century center for innovation, a true startup community.
Jessica Erickson is president of the Longmont Economic Development Partnership.