The Northern Colorado region of Larimer and Weld Counties benefits from years of collaboration among chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, and local governments. In 2019, the two county governments, along with selected towns and municipalities executed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on economic development activities that promote positive business attributes and amenities in the region. Creation of the Northern Colorado Regional Economic Development Initiative (NoCo REDI) was timely as it meant the region had the relationships and working structures in place to respond quickly to challenges created by the emergence of COVID-19 in the US in early 2020. However, a formal response and a focused recovery strategy were needed to navigate the changing economic landscape wrought by the pandemic.
Reignite Northern Colorado—a public-private collaboration formed in May 2020 to respond to the economic impacts of COVID-19 shutdowns—began work on a strategic plan to direct short-term recovery and lay the groundwork for long-term resiliency. In December 2020, TIP Strategies was engaged to help prepare the final recovery strategy. TIP’s scope of work was designed to leverage prior planning processes (including a 2017 regional workforce development strategy prepared by TIP and a 2019 industry cluster study) and to build on ongoing recovery efforts (such as the NoCo Recovers website, which featured up-to-date information on potential funding sources and programs along with an economic recovery tracker). The Reignite Northern Colorado plan created a cohesive path to guide future action in five areas: talent, small business resiliency, cluster implementation, innovation, and regional positioning. Ensuring an equitable recovery, providing flexible and customizable solutions, and leveraging the unique windows of opportunity created by the disruption were guiding principles for the plan. As part of the planning process, TIP also conducted a proprietary analysis of the pandemic’s impact on the regional workforce. Delivered as an interactive data visualization, the Occupational Risk Tool analyzed risk to health and earning across 700 occupations. Insights gained from the tool were used by Larimer County to secure 1,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for its front-line restaurant and food service workers during the pandemic’s earliest stages.