By Shari Phiel
Due to the efforts of the Berthoud Economic Resource Team, and especially those of team member Mina Cox, Berthoud residents, Town staff, property owners and developers had the rare opportunity of learning what attracts primary employers to an area.
A special joint meeting of the Board of Trustees, the Utility Advisory Board, the Planning and Zoning Commission and BERT was held on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at Brookside Gardens on State Highway 56 in place of the regular board meeting. About 60 attendees gathered to listen to Mike Masciola, vice president of the Northern Colorado Economic Development Corporation, and Daniel Kah of Greyhill Advisors, discuss the site selection process for primary employers.
What is a primary employer? Masciola defined it as a company having “50 percent of the income that it provides comes from outside of the region.” He noted by bringing in revenue from contracts throughout the state or even across the country, primary employers help support the local economy because employees “buy groceries, cars and clothes and for entertainment and those types of services that are called ‘secondary’.”
Since 2004, the NCEDC has worked with 31 companies to create 3,600 jobs in Larimer County with an average salary of $62,000 per year. Of those 3,600 jobs created, 95 percent were filled locally.
Masciola noted that with the economic downturn, the majority of primary employers — 85 percent — are no longer looking to build new facilities, but move into existing facilities.
Greyhill’s Kah, who brought ConocoPhillips to the former StorageTek site in Louisville, agreed. “Most of our projects are time sensitive. By the time they’re actually moving forward with the project, they need the project up and running right now.”
Another surprising item was that the NCEDC usually counsels communities to play down the “quality of life” an area provides. He noted one community spent so much time talking about all of the great hiking and biking trails in the area, and the close proximity to skiing, that the prospective employer wondered if his workers would show up after a big snow on a Friday.
Other things primary employers look for, said Kah, include the available workforce, both the initial investment and operational costs, and the ease and certainty of moving through the process.
Kah also noted that while the incentives offered by the community are important, they are not the overall driver to the location an employer chooses. He added that where incentives can be important is in offsetting taxes that may be the norm for the area but are seen as erroneous to employers coming in from outside the area. Incentives can also go a long way to making a company feel welcome and wanted in the community, Kah added.
Both Kah and Masciola agreed the level of regional cooperation is extremely important when companies look at where they should or shouldn’t move. “There’s not that many places where the communities get along to some degree,” said Kah. “And this is one of the them,” he added noting regional cooperation is important not only for the project’s day to day needs but is also an important part of the impression outsiders take away with them.
Following the meeting, Mayor Tom Patterson — who was very pleased by the large turnout — noted he was particularly interested by the fact primary employers are most interested in existing facilities. “We really needed to hear that,” said Patterson, adding there are several existing sites, like Champion Homes and the Wayside Inn, ready for new owners.
<p>Daniel Kah of Greyhill Advisors talks with Berthoud’s economic development consultant Stephanie Salazar following the Sept. 15 joint session meeting at Brookside Gardens.</p>