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4/10/2003

Selector: Be specific on what makes area great

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

DENVER — When it comes to why Colorado is a great place to live — and do business — the phrase “quality of life” inevitably pops up in the conversation.

But one expert believes that on a national level, everybody already knows about Colorado’s fantastic weather and abundance of outdoor activities. When it comes to luring businesses here, he said, “You can golf in the morning and ski in the afternoon” just doesn’t tell the whole story.

“(Quality of life) should be at the back end of your message,” said Chicago-based Robert Mace of Deloitte & Touche Fantus. “What makes it a great place to do business?”

Mace was one of a group of site selection experts who came to Denver recently for a conference hosted by the Metro Denver Network, an economic development organization. Approximately 50 local economic development organizations participated in the two-and-a-half day event, including the Longmont Area Economic Council.

The event, the first of its kind in Denver since 1995, was designed to show the site selectors, whose job it is to consult companies on where to locate their operations, what a great place Colorado is — especially the Front Range.

A dinner with the governor, a tour of places like Fitzsimons and a night in a luxury box at an Avalanche game were all part of the whirlwind couple of days.

Their last day here, however, it was the experts who did the talking, as they shared their impressions with the economic developers over an elegant breakfast at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

“One thing that has really come across to me, that really sells the message ... that the economic development people are really getting the business community involved,” Mace said. “That ‘can do, get it done’ atmosphere really means a lot to us — it carries a lot of weight.”

Robert Pittman of Lockwood Greene Consulting was in town from Atlanta, and he, too, said the locals needed to spread their business-friendly message far and wide.

“In this business, image lags reality,” Pittman said. “I think your message of quality of life and of a great place to live is out there.”

From a business standpoint, however, he said some people in other parts of the country may think “Colorado is like Oregon — maybe there’s some people who don’t want business.”

Offering a perspective from the left coast, Greg Gotthardt of Ernst and Young, came in from Orange County, Calif. He reminded the folks in Denver that they have to fight hard to get their message heard above the din.

“In terms of competition, I think the market, even before the downturn in the economy, has gotten more competitive over the past few years,” he said. “Groups have become much more aggressive. I mean, we’re talking about the Greater Des Moines (Iowa) partnership.”

Stefan Kupper with KPMG, a Louisiana native who recently relocated to Denver, spoke of the importance of tax incentives in luring companies to relocate, a controversial but often key part of the process.

“Incentives tend to be at the bottom of that list, but nevertheless, it’s still on the list,” Kupper said.

But a longtime local, Steve Laposa with PricewaterhouseCoopers, warned against offering too much in the way of incentives.

“Watch out how you give incentives — Colorado sells itself,” Laposa said. “I’ve turned down every job that would take me out of Denver, so is that enough said?”

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