ARCHIVED  October 1, 1995

Chambers seek common ground

Northern Colorado’s once-bickering chambers of commerce and economic-development agencies are finding new ways to cooperate.

The emergence of Northern Colorado as one big economy vs. three or more smaller ones has forced area officials to work together on a variety of issues, from legislative positions to tackling shortages in skilled labor and promoting economic development.

“I think 10 years ago, if a company was going to look at Fort Collins or Greeley, it was put on the boxing gloves and go at it,´ said Lyle Butler, president of the Greeley/Weld Chamber of Commerce. “But today, the way we’re looking at it is what’s good for Northern Colorado.”

Examples of cooperation abound.

” The Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance represents the three chambers in the Colorado Legislature, lobbying for or against bills and informing Northern Colorado businesses on legislative issues.

” The Northern Colorado Workforce Alliance originated out of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce and is designed to solve labor shortages within local industries.

” The Regional Business Council on Growth incorporates business leaders from Fort Collins, Greeley, Loveland, Windsor and other area communities to offer the business community’s perspective on growth.

With growth in the Northern Colorado economy, officials at area chambers realized they shared many concerns.

“Some of the problems or issues that were facing Greeley were also facing Loveland or Fort Collins,” Butler said. “By working together, we had more clout and could accomplish more things for Northern Colorado.”

Roland Mower, president of Fort Collins Inc., agreed.

“Effectively, we’re one big community,” he said, “and we sure need to think of it that way.”

Mower said that although competition exists for new businesses, economic-development officials have begun to take a wider perspective.

“As companies consider Fort Collins in terms of their expansions and relocations, we try to give them a flavor of what’s available in Northern Colorado,” he said.

That’s because what benefits one community often benefits another. Employees of the Eastman Kodak Co. plant in Windsor, for example, might live anywhere from Fort Collins to Greeley to Loveland. Jobs in one community mean opportunity in others.

Mower, during the peak of the debate over Hyundai Electronics America’s plans for a $1.3 billion facility, tossed the ball to the Greeley/Weld Economic Development Action Partnership Inc., which assembled a competitive proposal.

The Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, perhaps the region’s oldest example of cooperation, was established in 1990 and seats an 18-member board, six each from Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland. Representatives hail from both small and large businesses.

During the last legislative session, the NCLA fought for $7.5 million in funds for Greeley District 6, Poudre R-1 and Thompson Valley school districts.

Sandra Hagen Potter, issues manager for the alliance, said a main issue for the alliance during the next legislative session would be an overhaul of the state’s enterprise-zone legislation to reduce in-state competition.

“We shouldn’t end up having competing cities here because we could end up losing them [businesses] altogether,” Hagen Potter said. “We need to level the playing field.”

Hagen Potter said any initiative would not involve eliminating enterprise zones such as the popular one that continues to lure companies to Weld County. Rather, she said, the alliance will look at options for areas that need extra help in economic development.

Patricia Farnham, executive director of the Loveland Chamber of Commerce, said that prior to formation of the NCLA, “Everybody kind of tried to do their own thing, and as a result, everybody did just about next to nothing.”

Northern Colorado’s once-bickering chambers of commerce and economic-development agencies are finding new ways to cooperate.

The emergence of Northern Colorado as one big economy vs. three or more smaller ones has forced area officials to work together on a variety of issues, from legislative positions to tackling shortages in skilled labor and promoting economic development.

“I think 10 years ago, if a company was going to look at Fort Collins or Greeley, it was put on the boxing gloves and go at it,´ said Lyle Butler, president of the Greeley/Weld Chamber of Commerce. “But today, the way we’re looking at it is…

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