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Proposed NOCO Econ Alliance Ruffles Existing Biz Groups

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David Shankbone
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Northern Colorado will soon have a third organization working to attract new employers to the region

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.

The existing organizations each pay attention to a specific county. The Northern Colorado Economic Development Corporation focuses on Larimer, while Upstate Economic Development is focused on Weld County.

"It's already created some friction in the economic development community," said BizWest reporter Steve Lynn, who's written about the group as it gears up for launch. "The President of the NCEDC has said a new organization would present confusion to both site selection consultants and prospective employers who are evaluating Northern Colorado as a relocation option."

With two organizations already advocating for the area, why create a third? The founders, Woodward Inc. CEO Tom Gendron and auto dealer Scott Ehrlich, have said they don’t feel the current county-specific approach is working.

"The new organization would have a regional approach, instead of simply looking at an individual county and trying to attract employers to that county," Lynn said. "They feel this region doesn’t have the voice that it could in attracting employers, and they feel the area needs a better voice."

The new group plans to hire a high-caliber chief executive -- an individual who, as Lynn put it, "is really well known and has a lot of clout in the economic development world."

"They feel this region doesn't have the voice that it could in attracting employers. They feel the area needs a better voice."

One of the fears is that a new group could siphon off funding from private sources. However, unlike the other groups, the economic alliance will not seek public funding from local governments. Instead they’ll be classified as a 501 (c) (6) business league, and rely on private contributions from businesses and organizations.

The Northern Colorado Economic Alliance hopes to launch in the first quarter of 2015, although Lynn said they plan to take their time to find the right CEO. They’re aiming for an annual budget of $1 million.

"Based on the people who are backing this, it looks like that’s attainable," Lynn said. "Some people have told me it might be ambitious for this region, but… it’s not a stretch to think that the people who are supporting this, these regional business leaders, would be able to raise this kind of money."

You can read more on the challenges faced by the soon-to-launch Northern Colorado Economic Alliance at BizWest.

As host of KUNC's Colorado Edition, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. And because life is best when it's a balance of work and play, I love finding stories that highlight culture, music, the outdoors, and anything that makes Colorado such a great place to live.
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