Economic development is critical to lasting recovery

By Ann Driggers

Despite the current economic situation, or perhaps because of it, Coloradans would like to see the state provide more money for state incentives to attract new businesses to Colorado. That’s according to a survey of 500 likely voters in Colorado, conducted for the Economic Development Council of Colorado.

It would be wise for the state to allocate a greater level of funding to economic development, as it is clear residents place a high priority on increasing incentives and rank economic development as a top priority for state spending.

Put another way, survey respondents believe that economic development efforts and the corollary incentives used to attract and grow businesses are a good use of taxpayer dollars.

The Economic Development Council of Colorado is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to successful, responsible economic development. EDCC professionally represents the collective economic development interests of both the private and public sectors. Our mission is to strategically retain, expand and attract primary employers.

Colorado remains in a recession and economic development is critical to a lasting and successful recovery. Colorado citizens and economic developers recognize there are things that can be done on both state and local levels that will improve the economies of both.

Attracting high-quality jobs will stimulate local economies in a way that other efforts simply cannot match. Statewide support of economic development is needed to ensure the right jobs and businesses are recruited to Colorado, and that the companies currently calling Colorado home continue to do so.

The state economic development council recently commissioned a survey to gauge attitudes on specific issues prior to the 2010 general election. The amount of support for economic development is overwhelming.

Forty-two percent of respondents believe the most important issue for state government leaders to address is jobs. In this, our members are absolutely aligned with the electorate.

Eighty-five percent of survey respondents say the state remains in recession, and half of that group — 42 percent —believes Colorado’s recession is deep and serious.

The work of economic development professionals is critical to pull our state and municipalities out of recession and create economic viability throughout the state. Having state and local governments that are pro-business make it more attractive for businesses to choose Colorado for their moves and/or expansions.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents believe being a pro-business state is a good thing, with 69 percent of respondents saying Colorado is, in fact, pro-business.

In order to promote Colorado as a smart business location, we must have the tools to create opportunities for new business. “What is more, we must be proactive in our use of these tools to attract quality jobs to our state,” says Mike Kazmierski, EDCC Board member and CEO of Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corporation.

Taxpayer dollars are scarce, and it is important they are allocated to provide the services that make Colorado a great place to live and work. Unfortunately, with the state budget shrinking at an alarming rate, cuts are proposed in nearly all areas.

“We urge our elected officials to look thoughtfully at proposed cuts, particularly in terms of education,” said Preston Gibson, EDCC Board member and chairman of the Survey Committee. “Education is critical to workforce development and is therefore critical to economic development.”

Coloradans agree, according to the survey. Less than one-quarter of respondents would lower state spending through cuts to education, 17 percent would support cutting higher education and only 6 percent would support cutting K-12 education. The correlation between education and job creation is clear.

Economic developers use many tools to assist with job creation, but few are as effective as the ability to provide incentives for relocating or expanding businesses. The amount of money set aside for business incentives and tax credits is regularly reduced through essential budget trimming, or slashing, as the case may be. As a result, over the past few years, billions of dollars have been cut from the state budget. Currently economic development receives a state budget allocation of less than one-tenth of one percent.

Interestingly enough, survey respondents would provide a 19 percent budget allocation to economic development and an overwhelming 76 percent of respondents favor increasing state incentives to attract businesses to Colorado.

In a time of recession, the creation of high quality, primary jobs through economic development efforts is critical to a lasting and successful recovery.

Ann Driggers, is chair-elect of the Economic Development Council of Colorado and CEO of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership. She wrote this in conjunction with the other EDCC board members.


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