Fort Collins enjoys an economic, social, and environmental vitality that is the envy of many communities its size. Its lively historic downtown area; impressive parks, trails, and open space networks; and array of employers, including Poudre Valley Health System, Hewlett Packard and Woodward-Governor; make the city an attractive place for both a well-educated workforce and diverse industries. Combine these economic engines with a major land grant university, Colorado State University, and the result is a burgeoning culture of entrepreneurship. However, the recession of 2007–2009 exposed the city’s vulnerability to economic shocks.
In the face of this challenge, the City engaged TIP Strategies to reevaluate its economic position and refresh the community’s existing strategy. Following a review of past planning efforts and an economic assessment, TIP facilitated a stakeholder working group to refine opportunities and define the roles of the region’s economic development players. This approach laid the foundation for a city-wide blueprint for growth centered around the community’s priorities and built upon its previous planning efforts. Labeled an Economic Health Strategic Plan, the objective of the planning process was to identify the best strategies to strengthen and diversify the Fort Collins economy and create better economic opportunities for residents. Recommendations emphasized business retention and expansion, small business support, and innovation-driven entrepreneurship. The plan also provided clear metrics to measure its performance and refine the City’s approach as needed. Adopted in June 2012, the plan was incorporated immediately into the Office of Economic Health’s work plan and directly into the City’s budget process. Since the plan’s adoption, TIP has worked with the City to evaluate and track their industry cluster initiative, performed various fiscal impact analyses related to their business assistance program, conducted a study to inform the City’s new incentives policy, performed a regional labor study, and assisted with a subsequent update to the Economic Health Strategic Plan.