OEDIT pushing harder to attract companies to Colorado
Friday, March 29, 2013
Posted by: Selina Sandoval
OEDIT pushing harder to attract companies to Colorado
A dramatic shift is going on at the Colorado Office
of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT): the
eco-devo agency is aggressively pursuing companies to expand or relocate into
Colorado rather than waiting for the companies to seek help from the state.
This increased aggressiveness originated with "The Blueprint,”
the statewide economic-development plan that Gov. John
Hickenlooper and Ken Lund,
OEDIT executive director, released in August 2011. It emphasized that the state
must work closer with business and local eco-devo organizations to respond to
Lund and Hickenlooper realized that while states such as Texas
and Utah throw more money and incentives at potentially relocating companies,
Colorado can become more aggressive and more efficient with its incentives to
compete for precious jobs.
Business-development teams from OEDIT now identify companies
that have a presence in Colorado, and ask them how easy or difficult it is to
do business in this state and how it can serve the companies’ future needs.
Also, every two weeks, select members of Gov. John
Hickenlooper’s Cabinet meet to talk solely about economic
development and to coordinate strategies across departments. And some leaders
of other departments join OEDIT on economic-development missions to other parts
of the country.
The result: Hickenlooper and Lund have announced a number of
companies that have committed to expanding in the state in the past six months
— including Visa Inc., Redwood Trust Inc. and On Deck Capital Inc.
And the new strategy could mean there are more on the way.
Jeff Kraft is
director of the office’s business funding and incentives division. He
predicted, during a recent Colorado Economic Development Commission (EDC)
meeting, that a trip OEDIT officials made with Hickenlooper to Canada planned
March 26-29 and an upcoming visit to Seattle could lead to the state committing
another $3.2 million in job-creation incentives to expanding companies.
"Our view is [to offer] modest incentives with better execution
than any other state in the country,” Lund said. "The point is simply that we
are trying to build a team that can out-execute other states. We pride
ourselves on moving at the speed of business.”
In 2011, OEDIT began redeveloping its website (advancecolorado.com), reconfigured its
social-media strategies and built a team to chase deals, Lund said.
Late that year, Lund also started meeting every other week with
about a dozen leaders from state departments such as transportation, labor and
employment, revenue and regulatory affairs to determine how they could work
together to quickly send information about Colorado to any company considering
growing in the state. Hickenlooper comes to every other meeting.
Two weeks ago, attendees each identified a single point of
contact in their agencies to answer questions from any prospect looking at
OEDIT team members work with CEOs throughout Colorado and ask
them to identify companies in their supply chains that seek to expand, said
Michelle Hadwiger, a business-development manager who will become the office’s
business-development director on April 1. State officials will travel out of
state to visit with those companies, and will ask how Colorado can improve its
business atmosphere and help them to grow in this state, she said.
On the April trip to Seattle, for example, officials from OEDIT
and the state’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) will meet with IT
companies, site selectors and real estate developers, Hadwiger said. She
couldn’t name a company that such efforts have drawn to Colorado, but said she
expects the results to be more obvious in the coming years.
OIT, in particular, has been key to the cross-departmental
economic-development efforts. Director Kristin Russell,
a former vice president of Oracle Corp., has been able to join in Silicon
Valley trips and explain how private companies can work with the state to grow,
several people said.
Monica Coughlin is
OIT’s IT economic development and broadband strategy director, also coming from
Oracle to the state two years ago. She said when On Deck Capital was
considering expanding in Colorado, she and Russell helped to connect company
officials with local tech resources such as the Colorado Technology Association
Steve Foster, a CTA board member who has worked with OEDIT for a
long time, said state officials have gotten "extremely aggressive” in recent
years. He said that’s attracted company expansions and caused venture-capital
firms to notice the state and fund the growth of local companies.
"Colorado had a PR problem. We had a lot of great things going
on but the rest of the world didn’t know about it,” Foster said. "Now there are
well-organized activities to get that word out.”
All of this has happened while public focus has been on some
more visible changes to OEDIT, such as the addition of the state’s first chief
marketing officer last year and the launching of the controversial Regional
Tourism Act, which allows major tourism projects to apply to keep most of the
state sales-tax revenues they generate.
But the end product of these aggressive recruiting efforts — the
commitment of state tax funds for job-creation incentives — has caught the
attention of legislators.
The EDC has agreed since 2009 to spend as much as $68 million on
job-specific tax breaks and pledged another $14.6 million on more general
strategic-fund incentives, given only after promised jobs are created. This
year, Lund asked the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee (JBC) for an annual
$5 million allocation for the strategic fund — a five-fold increase from two
years ago. The JBC allocated $4.9 million in the budget that was introduced on
"I think that’s important from a strategic perspective,” Lund
said. "That gives us tools to be more competitive.”For original article, click here.