Economic Development

Jim Hill / KUNC

Severance taxes are what energy companies pay to the state for the oil, gas, coal, or other minerals they take out of the ground. Each year that adds up to a lot of cash. In Colorado, half of that money is supposed to go back to cities and counties impacted by energy development.

That's why when Colorado lawmakers voted to take $20 million away from the state’s severance tax fund for the 2015/2016 state budget, Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer wasn't happy.

"Every year they try to take it. So we fight this every year," said Kirkmeyer.

Ken Lund / Flickr-Creative Commons

Boulder is one of the most unaffordable cities on Colorado's Front Range. And like other expensive U.S. cities (think Seattle and San Francisco) it’s brainstorming ways to make housing accessible for low and middle-income folks.

Tuesday night, the city council approved a new tool to do this. It’s called an – wait for it – affordable housing linkage fee. It’s a mouthful. I know. But if you care about affordable housing, (and a lot of people in the Front Range are starting to) you’re probably going to start hearing more about linkage fees.

Courtesy of Lucky Brake Ltd. / Lucky Brake Ltd.

The Loveland Feed & Grain has been powering the city of Loveland for a long time.

Built in 1892, it was the site of the first electric lighting in Loveland. When the mill found that it had more electrical capacity than it could use, it offered the extra up to the town.

"And provided the power for the very first city street lights," said Felicia Harmon, who is overseeing the Feed & Grain's next incarnation. The former grain elevator is now being transformed into the city's next "power source" – the Artspace Loveland Arts Campus.

As a result of Colorado's booming oil production, energy companies are paying more in severance taxes – money they pay the state for taking minerals out of the ground. Half of it is supposed to go to back to local communities, both directly and through grants. But thanks to market forces – and political conditions in Denver – it's not always a stable source of funding.

City of Greeley / Flickr-Creative Commons

Oil towns across the country are seeing the impacts of the price slump. The entire state of Texas is seeing an economic slowdown. Tiny oil towns once benefiting from the Bakken boom are watching warily as growth slows.

In Greeley, which sits in the midst of Colorado's biggest oil patch, the story is pretty different, said Victoria Runkle, the assistant city manager and the town's financial guru.

"In January 2015 our sales taxes were 7 percent higher than they were in January 2014," said Runkle.

That's right – the town is raking in more revenue from sales this January, with oil at $47 a barrel, than a year ago, when prices were approaching $100 a barrel.

Nathan Heffel / KUNc

Old Town Square in downtown Fort Collins is getting a major facelift. The $3 million project will add updated amenities to the 30-year-old core of the city. Funding came in part from the city's downtown development authority which committed $1.9 million in bonds and tax increment.

In existence since 1981, the DDA has seen Old Town transformed from a vacant, rundown area to the city's main hot spot.

Downtown Greeley

At one point, the downtown was the cultural and business center of Greeley, Colorado. Over time though, the population moved west toward the mountains and I-25 - and businesses followed. A downtown development authority was formed in 1998 to stem the tide, to overcome the perception that the downtown was dead.

Now it appears that the city center is starting to turn that final corner of revitalization.

Downtown Loveland Association

Voters in downtown Loveland will soon be casting a ballot in a special election on whether to create a downtown development authority. Proponents believe an authority to fund development will help the downtown thrive.

Trends show more and more people want a downtown experience, so it may be the perfect time.

Stephen Butler / Flickr - Creative Commons

Governor John Hickenlooper received a warm reception from lawmakers in both parties during his annual State of the State Address. The Governor talked about policies he wants the legislature to adopt, announced a few new initiatives and urged lawmakers to face facts about the challenges facing Colorado.

During his roughly 45-minute speech Hickenlooper highlighted many of his budget proposals, such as giving more money to higher education and K-12 schools. He also pledged to look at ways to creatively fund roads and bridges, and threw his support behind a felony DUI law. Colorado is one of four states without one.

David Shankbone / Creative Commons/Flickr

A proposed new group aimed at touting the business benefits of Northern Colorado is creating some waves, even though it hasn't officially launched yet. The Northern Colorado Economic Alliance would take a regional approach to attracting employers to an area that would include both Weld and Larimer counties, though its focus could extend as far south as Longmont (which straddles Weld and Boulder counties) and as far north as Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The problem? Northern Colorado already has two economic development organizations.