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7/15/2004

Survey finds positive attitudes

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — The business outlook of company executives in the area appears to be looking up, according to a survey of local primary employers conducted by the Longmont Area Economic Council.

The LAEC’s Existing Industry Report, a survey of top executives at the more than 200 primary employers in the council’s service area, was announced earlier

this week. Notably, 56 percent of respondents said they plan to expand in some form locally — either in capital, jobs or facilities — within the next three years.

“This is the highest it’s been in five years,” LAEC President and CEO John Cody told board members at their monthly meeting Monday.

Cody cautioned

that the survey results were only “point-in-time opinions” from local executives, but nonetheless encouraging.

“It appears that there is a pending need for expansion at some point,” he said.

Another positive to come out of the survey — at least as far as Mayor Julia Pirnack and city council member Roger Lange, both LAEC board members, are concerned — is that 73 percent of the respondents said there were no perceived barriers to growth in Longmont.

“It’ll be interesting to see how that compares to the national norm,” Cody said. “We don’t have those numbers yet, but when we do, it’ll be a good comparison for us.”

Seventy-two percent of the employers surveyed were in Boulder County, the rest in Weld County.

For the first time, the LAEC’s existing industry committee used a program called Synchronist to conduct the survey, believing it would be useful in sorting out the information in highly detailed fashion. The company that makes Synchronist will tally data from the roughly 100 communities using the product and forward that data along to its clients.

One of the survey responses that may concern government officials in both Boulder and Weld counties, where the survey was conducted, was the feeling of executives regarding public services. While police, fire and ambulance services ranked high in both counties, transportation was rated the lowest in both.

On a scale of one to five, with five being the most positive, transportation in both Weld and Boulder counties received a ranking in the low twos.

The survey revealed other concerns beyond transportation.

“Eleven companies were flagged as a potential risk of leaving the community,” said Todd Isaacson of Express Personnel Services, who helped organize the survey as a volunteer member of the LAEC’s existing industry team.

According to the report, reasons given by the companies for leaving ranged from “need more space” to “headquarters decision to move.”

All 11 companies have since been contacted by the LAEC to see if the council can do anything to assist them and keep them in Longmont, the report said.

Other high marks from survey respondents included positive comments on the local work force, with worker productivity receiving the highest ranking in that category.

Asked for their company’s “greatest achievement,” the majority of respondents cited “staying in business/surviving.”

“In many cases, I guess that was quite an achievement,” Isaacson said.

A primary employer is one that produces goods and services locally that bring in money from outside the area. There are currently 236 primary employers in the LAEC’s coverage area, which is geographically equivalent to the St. Vrain Valley School District.

According to Cody, each primary job helps create two to three nonprimary jobs in the area.

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In other LAEC news, the council has formally endorsed the passage of the Regional Transportation District’s FasTracks proposal, which will be on November’s ballot.

The $4.7 billion proposal would augment transit service in RTD’s seven-county area, including adding 119 miles of passenger rail. The project, if approved, will take 12 years to build.

The LAEC’s board voted at its retreat in May to endorse the initiative, and it was presented with a final copy of the endorsement at this week’s board meeting.

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.