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Keeping the Californians

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — The city will be well represented when a group of business and political leaders travels to California next week.

The trip is unusual for three reasons: Gov. Bill Owens and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper will be part of the two-day junket, its focus is on the retention of — not the recruitment of — California companies, and it involves groups that don’t necessarily always work together.

“Multiple economic organizations working together on a common effort — that’s a rare thing throughout the United States,” said John Cody, president and CEO of the Longmont Area Economic Council and president of the Economic Developers of Colorado. “It’s not something you see very often.”

The trip was organized by the Metro Denver Network, the economic development arm of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. Tom Clark, executive vice president of the chamber and the head of the MDN, said the Colorado entourage will meet with California-based companies that have a presence in Colorado.

“If they’re going to have job reductions, let’s make sure they have those job reductions somewhere else,” Clark said.

Lindy Eichenbaum Lent is communications director for Hickenlooper, who was sworn in only two weeks ago. According to her, the primary purpose of the junket is “job retention.”

“We want to ensure that (the California companies’) needs are being met here, they’re happy here, and they have no plans to leave here.”

Lent said that when Hickenlooper heard about the trip, he jumped at the chance to participate.

“This is very much a regional trip,” said Lent. “This is rooted in the strong belief that we are all in this together. From the city of Denver’s standpoint, we recognize that jobs in Longmont are good for Denver.

“What’s good for Longmont is good for Denver, and what’s good for Denver is good for Aurora. That’s what’s so exciting about this.”

The venture capital community in California also will be a focus of the trip. In 2002, a half-billion dollars worth of VC funding flowed into Colorado companies from the Golden State.

“The governor and the mayor will also be meeting with California-based VC’s to promote Colorado companies with good growth potential,” said Drew Bolin, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

An interesting side note to the trip is the pairing of the governor and the new Denver mayor, two men who couldn’t be more disparate, both personality-wise or politically. But Clark said that’s a fact that could actually help strengthen their cause when it comes to promoting Colorado’s business climate.

“The message on metro Denver right now, frankly, is a little bit spotty,” said Clark, noting that transportation and water are two issues that people outside the state could see as obstacles to doing business here. “So, the thought became, maybe the messengers are the message at the front end. We thought, ‘If we put these two guys together, wouldn’t that be interesting?’”

Clark said the trip was originally planned without having politicians involved, but both Hickenlooper and Owens were eager to participate.

“Hickenlooper, unlike some mayors, truly understands the regional interconnection between his city and the success of other cities in the region,” said Clark.

The trip to northern California begins in the early-morning hours Tuesday and the group returns late Wednesday night.

While there will be several economic development organizations from around the state represented, Cody will be the only person making the trip from Boulder County. He said a reception will be held Tuesday evening, “where the primary focus is to say ‘thank you’ to California-based companies with a presence in Colorado.”

“We have a number of companies represented in Longmont that have a northern California presence,” Cody said. “Those would include Adaptec, Infineon, Marvell Semiconductor, National Semiconductor, Phillips Semiconductor, Pillar Data Systems, Seagate and Xilinx.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll have a number of companies that will either attend the reception or we’ll be able to meet with.”

As for Clark, Cody’s friend and the former head of the Jefferson (County) Economic Council, he’s excited to see so many diverse groups coming together to promote the state.

“Just from a personal standpoint this has been fun to put this whole thing together,” said Clark. “This is the way we did it a decade ago.”

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