Business promotion group One NoCo — the public name of the Northern Colorado Economic Alliance Inc. — will disband and distribute its remaining resources to three area chambers of commerce and a regional lobbying group.
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A press release from the group Tuesday said it “supports collaborative action” among remaining backers of Northern Colorado economic development, including the Loveland, Fort Collins and Greeley chambers; Greeley-based Upstate Colorado Economic Development and the Northern Colorado Regional Economic Development Initiative, or REDI.
The nonprofit One NoCo launched in 2014 with business backing and an aim of “attracting and stimulating relevant economic opportunity and job growth for the region,” the press release said.
It “worked to create a competitive environment to attract and retain primary businesses and industry jobs in Northern Colorado. The organization took a collaborative, regional approach to targeted business and industry attraction and focused on telling the complete Northern Colorado story.”
Chairman Scott Ehrlich said the group is closing down because collaboration among the organizations is “in place and working well [and] we didn’t think it was necessary to continue with duplicating efforts.”
He said, “We are very pleased with the regional effort that has been established with the Northern Colorado Regional Economic Development Initiative (REDI) as well as the collaboration by the Northern Colorado area Chambers of Commerce, and NCLA. … The Board continues to have a great sense of enthusiasm about the future of the region and the need and willingness to work together.”
A call to Ehrlich was not immediately returned.
One NoCo’s board will host an annual meeting for the groups and plans to distribute remaining resources of about $40,000 to the Loveland, Fort Collins and Greeley chambers of commerce and the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, a lobbying group.
News reports two years ago said the group at its founding had aimed to raise about $1 million, gathering about $700,000. By 2018 and 2019, it was running about $80,000 to $100,000 in the red each year, news reports noted.
Those two years also saw a public accounting of the departure of all its staff and many of its corporate donors. The funding deficits had begun within about three years of the group’s founding.
One NoCo was the 2018 rebranding of Loveland-based Northern Colorado Economic Alliance, which itself had replaced the Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp., which disbanded in 2015.
NCEDC had given its remaining funds to start NCEA.
NCEA in 2018 discussed merging with Upstate, but these talks collapsed. It rebranded soon after, and the two groups continued on a similarly stated path: attracting and retaining Northern Colorado businesses.
A Windsor developer said at the time that having more than one regional group marketing a single region “makes no sense.”
In January 2019, about eight months after the failed merger talks but still several months prior to revelations of One NoCo’s woes, the three chambers of commerce officially backed One NoCo, and its CEOs joined the group’s board.
Business backers at the time included Troy McWhinney, Margo Karsten of Banner Health, Kevin Unger of UCHealth, and Colorado Rockies’ co-owner and general partner Charles Monfort.
But — after staff departures, annual shortfalls and departing donors — then came COVID.
The three area chambers were “managing our own groups, and One NoCo decided to go dormant until we got through COVID,” Mindy McCloughan, president and CEO of the Loveland Chamber of Commerce, told BizWest last week.
As the pandemic began to peter out and prior to the emergence of the Delta variant, “the discussion became where do we go? Do we relaunch” or stay on the sidelines, where it had been.
With other groups “already working together to reignite our economy, One NoCo decided it didn’t need to reinvent” the efforts.
She said the group began discussing dissolution about two weeks ago.
Should a big project or possible corporate relocation begin to develop, “The board stands ready to return and be mobilized as a group” to support that, McCloughan said by phone.
She said in today’s press release that “while One NoCo is going away as an organization, the founders remain steadfast in their call for and the continued focus on the value proposition for why companies should come to, stay and expand in the region.”
She called for “an economic development model that is well-resourced, tightly aligned and coordinated, and collaborative on a regional basis.”
The release named current board members including Karsten, Unger, and Monfort; CEOs of the three chambers: McCloughan, Jaime Henning in Greeley, and Ann Hutchison in Fort Collins; and a number of others, including Tom Gendron of industrial control systems and component maker Woodward Inc. (Nasdaq: WWD) and Royal Lovell of insurers Flood & Peterson.
Rich Werner, president and CEO of Upstate Colorado — the group that had discussed merging with the predecessor to One NoCo — had no comment on the group’s action, but said REDI, which his group is part of along with about 15 other economic-development groups in Weld and Larimer counties, continues its work.
“We call it a ‘coalition of the willing,’” he said of REDI, which lies somewhere between ad hoc effort and formal push, as such groups go. It meets monthly, has working groups on marketing and prospecting, and conducts studies, among other activities, but isn’t a formal, official organization.
He said in the press release, “REDI develops and manages regional economic development strategy and assists businesses looking to locate or grow in the area.”
Werner also cited “the objective of this collaboration” between groups and “the significant attention that One NoCo was able to bring to regional economic development issues.”
He’s been REDI’s chairman since a pre-COVID launch; Jacob Castillo, director of economic and workforce development for Larimer County, took on the role at the group’s August meeting.
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