City of Fort Collins – Economic Development Strategic Plan

The Challenge Fort Collins enjoys an economic, social, and environmental vitality that is the envy of many communities its size. The high quality of place attributed to Fort Collins comes from the lively historic downtown and the city’s impressive parks, trails, and open space networks. These community assets make Fort Collins an attractive place for both a well-educated workforce and diverse industries. Fort Collins includes a wide array of economic engines, such as Poudre Valley Health System, Hewlett Packard and Woodward-Governor, employing almost 13,000 workers. Combine these economic engines with a major land grant university in Colorado State University and the result is a burgeoning culture of entrepreneurship.
However, the recent recession exposed the city’s vulnerability to economic shocks. In the face of this challenge, the city undertook a planning process to identify the best strategies to strengthen and diversify its economy as well as create better economic opportunity for residents.

The Approach The strategic planning process began with a review of past planning efforts and an economic assessment. This information was augmented by a targeted input strategy devised to dovetail with the city’s recently completed comprehensive planning effort. This qualitative and quantitative input informed the analysis of Fort Collins’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The consulting team then worked with a stakeholder group to refine opportunities and define roles of economic development players.

The Outcome In the end, the economic health strategic plan provided a city-wide blueprint for growth centered around the community’s priorities and that built upon its previous planning efforts. The plan places emphasis on business retention and expansion, small business support, and innovation-driven entrepreneurship. It helped the city define its role in the community’s economic development landscape and map out a series of programs that correspond to its role. In addition, the plan provided the city with clear metrics to measure its performance and refine its approach as needed. The plan was adopted in June 2012 and was immediately incorporated into the office of economic health’s work plan and directly into the City’s budget process. TIP is currently working with the City to evaluate their industry cluster initiative and track its performance and recently concluded a study to inform the City’s new incentives policy. On an on-going basis, TIP provides the City with fiscal and economic impact analyses to evaluate the costs and benefits of expansion and relocation projects.

Managing Director

Image credit National Trust for Historic Preservation

Image credit Decumanus GFDL