Economic Development through Collaboration
Longmont Area Economic Council
Longmont, Colorado is a vibrant community that has established a reputation for collaborative development and economic viability. With the Longmont Economic Area Council leading the charge, a comprehensive approach to economic and community development has been established, supported by the collective efforts of community members, businesses and organizations.
Longmont is considered one of the top forty improved cities since the recession and one of the top ten locations in Colorado for job-seekers (NerdWallet, 2014). It has also ranked fifteenth on the annual best-performing cities index (Milken Institute, 2013), is one of the top fifty cities to live in (2014) and is ranked the third most family friendly community in Colorado (2015). Moreover, these are but a few of its recent recognitions.
Jessica Erickson, president and CEO of the Longmont Area Economic Council, shared the secret to Longmont’s economic growth and success. “I’ve been in economic development in other communities, and I have not seen anywhere else the level of collaboration and partnership and cooperation amongst government, non-profit, education, private sector and industry partners that exists in Longmont.”
Historically, Longmont’s economy has been supported by agriculture, transitioning over the last several decades to become a blue collar, manufacturing economy in the 1980s. Later adapting to a changing global economy, it accommodated the technology boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Though there have been subsequent booms and busts, the tech industry still enjoys success in the Longmont area today.
Longmont and Colorado in general, has a strong tech-based local economy and is home to a number of data storage and information technology companies. Though the Longmont Area Economic Council continues to promote the strength of the local tech industry, many efforts have been undertaken to diversify the economy to sustain and further the economy for the future.
Longmont has built on its natural assets and enhanced the community to make it an even greater place to live, work and invest. This effort has made it an ideal location for industries requiring advanced manufacturing, specifically agricultural technology – an advanced version of an historical economic sector of the local economy – and aerospace technology.
In addition to supporting technology and related industries, the community is also ideal for biosciences and has a strong creative arts and culinary flair. Longmont, like the rest of the state, has been quite active in the growing international trend of microbreweries, distilleries and the many ancillary businesses and restaurants that result from the proliferation of these culinary industries.
Community stakeholders from the public and private sectors have come together to ensure that Longmont offers an active, business-friendly environment in which the community and economy can thrive. Longmont’s efforts support entrepreneurship and innovation, maximize development, market the area’s strengths and build on its many strategic assets.
Longmont is located adjacent to the city of Boulder and is accessible from Denver, with access to all of the amenities and services of those regions, without the costs associated with living in these major centers. Taking full advantage of the area’s universities, airports and infrastructure, Longmont has access to all that is required to support an economically viable community.
Erickson credits the City of Longmont for its continued investment in infrastructure. “The city itself is really focused on investing in infrastructure – investing in the downtown – so that we have a location that is not only appealing to businesses to locate because of the affordability of operating costs associated with locating in Longmont, but it’s also attractive to the labor force that those businesses need.”
Longmont boasts significant strategic advantages which have been a catalyst for its growth and development. The area differentiates itself via the affordability of living and doing business, the educated local workforce, the support from community stakeholders, the city’s continued investment in infrastructure.
“We have a publicly owned utility that has started the process of offering a one-gigabit internet service that is offered by the municipality,” said Erickson of Longmont Power and Communication’s NextLight broadband service. “We’ll be a gigabit city, with gigabit service available to every resident and every business within the city over the next couple of years, at a fraction of the cost.”
The one-gigabit broadband service provides Longmont with an excellent opportunity to support the expansion of the local IT industry. It will also aid in the function of local businesses by satisfying demands for bandwidth and high speed internet access at an affordable rate.
The Longmont Area Economic Council began as the Economic Development Association of Longmont in the early 1980s, evolving over time into its current role. Historically focused on economic development through the attraction, retention and expansion of primary employers, its role now encompasses a more holistic approach to community economic development.
Key to Longmont’s economic growth and community development are the efforts of the local community. These active stakeholders from the public and private sectors, under the direction and leadership of the Longmont Area Economic Council, have made extensive efforts to ensure the continued success and well-being of Longmont.
Partner organizations include members of the community from the public and private sectors including the City Government, chambers of commerce, higher education, K-12 education, Douwntown Development Authority, small business and entrepreneurial support organizations, tourism, the local housing authority, and the local utilities. These groups collaborated to create a strategic plan and operational structure by which to implement the collective goals of the community in terms of economic growth and development.
Two years ago, a targeted industry analysis was undertaken for Longmont, an initiative that would grow into a full-scope economic development strategy. The comprehensive strategic planning process brought the Longmont community together to establish and plan an approach to development in which everyone has a stake in its successful implementation.
“The Advance Longmont Plan, which is our strategic plan for economic development here, includes all of those partners, and we really collaborate and work together to identify what we need to do in Longmont to continue to grow at the rate we have. And continue to improve at the rate we have in terms of quality job creation and things like affordable housing and education here in the community,” said Erickson.
With an emphasis on workforce development and providing entrepreneurial support and resources to foster innovation in the community, Longmont is well positioned for the future through its approach to economic growth. The council has made every effort to secure a great quality of life for area residents.
Workforce development is paramount to the Longmont Economic Area Council, as well as every government official who is invested in economic development. Local leadership and economic development officials work closely with the area’s K-12 and higher education, drawing on the nationally recognized St. Vrain Valley School District’s STEM and STEAM educational programming capacities.
Together, the goal is to build a community that continues to meet the needs of its growing businesses, develop a workforce to support this growth and build its capacities to ensure the needs of future employers will also be met while enabling them to adapt to changing market conditions to secure economic longevity.
Longmont has a lot to offer businesses, individuals and families. It has a unique identity and a community-oriented feel. Longmont has experienced substantial growth over the past couple of decades that has matured it into a vibrant, business-friendly place. So much innovation happens here that it has the second highest rate of patent issues per 10,000 people in Colorado.
Building from its solid foundation, Longmont is prepared to address challenges arising from a limited offering of commercial building inventory. Longmont does have a 700,000 square foot campus available which would be suitable for biosciences industry. It is also working with local developers and real estate agents to further grow in this capacity.
Area government continues to do its part to facilitate and foster a business-friendly environment and the Longmont Area Economic Council is doing its part to lead the ongoing efforts of the community to achieve its common goals.
Erickson has been impressed with Longmont since before she first moved here and has been impressed with the sense of community with which she was welcomed. “It is an affordable, attractive environment to live in with a lot of the amenities and resources that you would find in a much larger community but also maintains that sense of small town community.”
There is a commitment across all facets of the community to make Longmont an inviting place in which to live and do business. It’s no wonder this population of just over 86,000 has been ranked as the second happiest city by Vermont Complex Systems Center in 2013 and continues to be a forward thinking, development-oriented community that achieves results.