Uncertainty and fear are common emotions expressed by executives during my conservations with them about their business outlook. However, those charged with economic development are undaunted in their efforts to raise awareness about their regions. I interviewed a veteran of this process, John Cody, President and CEO of the Longmont Area Economic Council (LAEC).
John has over 25 years of economic experience with a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning, a Certified Economic Developer (CED), and prior experience in Louisiana, Wyoming, and Colorado.
Q1.You work with Primary Employers and Longmont has seen some interesting industry clusters develop in the area. What is an industry cluster and how long do they take to develop? What are the main industry clusters and the emerging clusters now developing?
Industry Clusters are basically concentrations of companies in a geographic region within a specific industry classification. The term was popularized by Michael Porter in his book “The Competitive Advantage of Nations”. In a classic sense they represent an industry group that is integrated on both a vertical and horizontal basis. However, outside the classic definition, “clusters” are used to define concentrations of employment that are multiples of the national average.
In that regard, Longmont has four identified clusters: Data Storage, Biotech, Software and Semiconductor Design. Each of these “clusters” has a high concentration in the Longmont area. We are also seeing the emergence of possible clusters in the aerospace and renewable energy industries. In a larger sense, Advanced Technology, as a group of industries, represents more than half of the primary employment in Longmont. This is many times the national average.
In recent years we have also seen the rise of data centers in Longmont, due to our low cost and availability of electricity and because we are located in a relatively “disaster free area”. While data centers are not specific to a given industry, we are beginning to see a concentration of these facilities. So far, American Honda, Xilinx, West Corporation and Ongoing operations are here in Longmont.
Q2.Are there any industry clusters Longmont currently hasn’t developed that would be a good fit for the area?
No, not really. Business, like water, tends to seek its own level. We look for a presence in the region as evidence that an industry likes this area and then we determine if that industry is poised to grow and how effectively we can compete for expansions and relocations.
Q3.Awareness is a problem for many regions. What kind of outreach are you doing outside of Colorado to highlight the business benefits of Longmont?
As a small community (87,000 population) we rely on two primary vehicles for getting our word out. First, we work with our regional and state partners to promote this part of Colorado, recognizing we will compete best when this region is selected as a good location by a prospective company. We participate in trade shows, site selection conferences, trade missions and national marketing efforts by these groups to get the word out about the Denver metro region.
We then begin the process of “coopitition” to try and attract a given prospect that is looking for a community like Longmont. Second, we use our web page, which has become the standard for initial stages of the site selection process.
In addition to information (demographics, incentives, community profile, industry profile, etc.) we also maintain a comprehensive real estate database that is searchable online and which is maintained completely by our organization. We are the only organization in Colorado to do this.
Q4.I’m often surprised by Longmont Primary Employers who are unaware of each other. What kind of events does the LAEC sponsor so these companies learn about each other?
We promote our companies in a variety of ways including: two industry recognition events that have a 10 year history in Longmont, promotion on our web page and quarterly newsletter, promotion through our quarterly supplement in the Boulder County Business Report and news items that are included in our weekly updates to investors.
In addition, we periodically bring together companies that have common issues to facilitate discussion. Topics have included government procurement, employment law, lean manufacturing, telecommunications, etc.
Q5.What have you found is the best-kept-secret of Longmont that businesses are surprised to learn when you engage with them?
With the advent of the Internet, secrets have become mostly a thing of the past. What I do notice is that people seem surprised about the caliber of companies we have based on the size of our community. Names like Seagate, Amgen, DigitalGlobe and Intrado locally and IBM, Ball Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft in Boulder County are usually reserved for much larger populated areas.
Our competitive advantages include the quality of our workforce, the cost of doing business (especially for advanced technology companies), and a business friendly local government are usually uncovered before we talk with them.
Q6.What advice can you give Longmont Primary Employers who are interested in seeing their particular industry cluster develop or grow?
Obviously, no one is better at growing their companies than they are. What we want companies to know is that when they are ready to grow, Longmont has the right talent, the right tools and the right business environment to contribute to their success.
Q7.Is there anything you’d like to add about LAEC, Longmont, or business development?
Just that the site selection process is complex because there are so many factors to be considered. Our office has over 50 years of experience in working with companies to find a location and a process that meets their needs. Not every community is a good fit for every company.
We can facilitate a company’s needs in finding the best location and in the time frame that matches their needs to be operational. Longmont is a great community for the right company and we want them to know they have an ally in the Economic Council and the City of Longmont.
See these additional LAEC resources if you are considering the Longmont Area for a corporate relocation: