Editorial: Economic-development groups should resume merger talks

Word that merger talks between the Northern Colorado Economic Alliance and Upstate Colorado Economic Development had collapsed was a hot topic of conversation at the Economic Development Council of Colorado Region 3 meeting in Westminster, April 24.

Most were incredulous that the failed talks — and the apparent acrimony between the organizations — had become public, as exclusively reported on www.bizwest.com, late on April 23. Others voiced frustration that the two organizations haven’t been able to combine, and that the latest opportunity might have been squandered. As one attendee put it, “Can’t these guys just get it together?”

Our sentiments exactly.

BizWest and its predecessor, the Northern Colorado Business Report, long have championed a merger of the region’s economic-development organizations. Outside site selectors view Northern Colorado as a region, and it’s inefficient at best for economic-development efforts to be split between one organization headquartered in Larimer County and one based in Weld County.

Site selectors want one voice to represent the region and all of its communities. One vision should guide business recruitment and retention. One brand should define the region.

Instead, we have Greeley-based Upstate Colorado Economic Development broadening its reach to create a new branding campaign to encompass Fort Collins, Greeley, Loveland, Larimer County, Weld County and other communities.

NCEA, based in Loveland and now rebranded as One NoCo, will attempt to do the same thing, representing the entire region to prospects.

It’s a recipe for disaster, inefficiency, confusion and disunity.

One can only imagine how leaders of the two organizations will respond when a prospect inquires about how the two groups differ, and why the region doesn’t get its act together with one cohesive approach to economic development.

At some point, private-sector members of both groups will rise up and demand a unified approach, pull their dollars from one organization in favor of another, or pull their funds from both groups entirely.

And the two groups seemed tantalizingly close to coming together after an early March meeting of representatives from the two organizations with former Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. CEO Tom Clark, who set the standards nationally for a region-wide approach to economic development free of parochialism.

In the end, the merger talks fell apart, April 5, because of a disagreement over board structure, including the number of public-sector versus private-sector board members.

While we don’t discount the importance of that issue, it’s disappointing that participants let a debate over power overwhelm the voices of reason.