Northern Colorado economic developers craft plan to jump-start business resumption – Loveland Reporter-Herald
Efforts to align economic development with a two-county northern Colorado region and collaborate regardless of community — a process that began years ago — have paid off in the age of COVID.
Led by the Northern Colorado Regional Economic Development Initiative, or REDI, 35 communities, economic development entities, chambers of commerce and others have partnered to create the framework for a recovery plan for the region.
Titled “Reignite our Economy,” a document unveiled on Wednesday lays the groundwork for a business and economic recovery from the pandemic that has shuttered some businesses and devastated tax entities, charities and membership organizations that rely on healthy businesses.
“Since March 7, 42,000 people have filed unemployment claims in the two counties (Larimer and Weld). That compares to just 2,300 the same time a year ago,” said Kelly Jones, director of economic development for the town of Loveland.
The regional unemployment rate was 11% in April for Larimer and 9.8% for Weld County, she said, higher than the 8.3% unemployment rate that was the highest. high during the Great Recession of 2008. Both counties saw those numbers improve in May.
Determining what a healthy economy might look like and developing plans to get there are among the tasks the REDI group set out to accomplish with the Reignite plan.
Jones said many economic developers, academic experts and others were involved in creating the framework, but she said four people from Fort Collins “did the heavy lifting.” They are David May and Ann Hutchison of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce, and Josh Birks and SeonAh Kendall of the Fort Collins Economic Health Department.
The plan identifies 10 principles necessary for recovery:
- Build trust with customers and workers.
- Recognize that work is both practical and symbolic.
- Recognizing that every community, its government and its businesses have a vested interest.
- This data and this experience will be essential.
- That the focus must be on economic recovery, and that other segments of the regional fabric will follow.
- The focus should be on resilience and creating systems that help entities recover when faced with setbacks.
- This recovery depends on the reopening of economic engines such as universities, major employers, federal laboratories and key economic sectors such as tourism.
- That participants should strive to “do no harm”. It will be essential to avoid new regulations and financial burdens.
- That the plan must avoid being short-sighted. Long-term goals should be kept in mind when addressing short-term needs.
- Form should follow function. The search for perfect information should not “become the enemy of forward movement,” the plan states.
Jones said the task force sees the region as being in a “pre-recovery” phase, which will be followed by rebuilding economic activity and finding out what the “new normal” will look like.
The plan says “pre-hedging” can be characterized by an “80% economy” that will not fully regain strength until a vaccine or treatment is developed. Jones said the recovery phase may not develop until 2021 or later and take several years to fully realize.
The plan envisions each community developing complementary plans that take local circumstances into account.
Next steps, Jones said, include expanding the group of people and organizations involved, developing a firmer timeline, and continuing to collect data on the regional, state and national economy and elements that make up each line of business.
© 2020 BizWest Media LLC