How to win employers and influence job growth
Our national and local economy have changed dramatically over the last several years. Longmont has seen its share of job loss. I have several ideas that can help us regain our advantage in attracting new primary employers that can provide jobs to our city.
First, the city of Longmont needs to undertake a comprehensive review of its impact and development fees. The fees we now charge for development need to be updated to make certain they are in sync with the programs they support. Our philosophy toward impact and development fees should be re-evaluated, as the successful cities in the future will need to be competitive by creating incentives and assistance programs for business expansion and retention. We need jobs and the way we will be successful in gaining them is by creating an environment that is more competitive with other communities along the Front Range. For example, the practice of evaluating annexations by “exceptional benefit” is unique to Longmont and sends the wrong message to businesses that their annexation will be judged subjectively, and this will certainly not influence job growth in a positive direction.
Second, Longmont needs to evaluate and revise its development review process to make it more timely for a business to get through our system. It is now an extremely cumbersome process that needs to be streamlined. For example, filling vacant commercial or industrial space is often subject to a “change of use” review where current development regulations and zoning standards are applied retroactively to existing properties. These properties often have physical space limitations that would not allow for more parking, more landscaping or bigger setbacks. The process can take months, and this often prevents a business from moving into a vacant space. The purchase of the old Chevy dealership by Pacific Auction took months longer than it should have because of this process.
Third, increased investment in public infrastructure where that infrastructure is absent, deficient, deteriorated or where it supports specific city economic programs should be a priority. Public infrastructure can be used to prime the pump for private investment. For example, if some aspect of public investment at the Twin Peaks Mall could lead to an increment of redevelopment that included a new state-of-the-art movie theater, that could drive further development. This is just one example of how the city can spur economic growth.
Fourth, we need to ask our current primary employers what could be done to encourage them to add new jobs. We need to also ask those businesses from whom they get their goods and services and invite those companies to relocate here. This could create a unique synergy among employers in our city and provide more jobs for its residents.
The City Council of Longmont needs to send a positive, consistent message to the business community and to prospective businesses. Council members who have been openly critical of organizations that promote the economic growth of Longmont and are even openly critical of their existence do a great disservice to job growth.
This denigration undermines efforts to grow our local economy and sends a negative message to businesses looking to locate here. Council members who publicly demean other council members, residents or city staff create a sad parody of our highly partisan federal government. Leadership and civility would be an encouraging and constructive contribution by council. City Council needs to set an example of explicit teamwork to demonstrate why Longmont is the exceptional place we know it to be.
Business decisions regarding relocating or expansion are made on a number of factors, which include the stability and the encouragement of local government, access to a qualified, educated workforce and overall quality of life. Longmont has much to offer in the way of its natural beauty, exceptional parks, recreational opportunities, viable downtown and cultural history. We have an educated workforce. We are located in the perfect spot: close to both the mountains and to Denver. The conditions that make Longmont a great place to live also make it attractive to potential employers. We just need to put the whole package together to compete with our neighbors and encourage job growth. I know we can accomplish this goal with dedicated teamwork by City Council. I’d like you to help me be a part of this renaissance of my hometown by voting for me for City Council.
Bonnie Finley is a candidate for the City Council Ward 3 position.