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Economic-development group seeks more funds from county

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EDC wants $100,000 a year for five years for new initiative

By Ramsey Scott

 The Jefferson County Economic Development Corp. is about to announce a new initiative designed to bring the county more than 7,500 full-time jobs over a five-year period — but it would cost taxpayers another $100,000 annually on top of the $300,000 the EDC already receives.

To execute the “Forward Jeffco Initiative,” the Jeffco EDC is seeking to raise $3.9 million from both private and governmental partners. Earlier this month, the nonprofit economic development group asked the county commissioners to invest the additional $100,000 annually for the next five years. 

The county provided $300,000 in its 2013 budget to the Jeffco EDC while slashing funds to social-services nonprofits.

The EDC’s proposed initiative was developed after a study by Angelou Economics recommended the county create a more cohesive effort to catch the next wave of business development, said Kevin McCasky, CEO of the Jeffco EDC. 

The Jeffco EDC contracted with National Community Development Services last year to develop a plan to find the best way to sell the county to businesses nationwide. The Georgia-based company works with local governments across the country to develop economic strategies and help raise funds.  

Mel Kent, the project’s director from NCDS, said this proactive approach is working across the country. 

Kent pointed to cities like Austin, Texas, Madison, Wis., and Boise, Idaho, that have had success with targeting businesses for recruitment into their areas. 

In its presentation to the county commissioners, the Jeffco EDC said the return on investment from the initiative, based on what is being seen across the country, would be $51 for each $1 invested. 

Kent said the first step in marketing Jeffco is to find out which businesses best fit the county’s profile. 

The initiative will focus on attracting businesses to Jeffco in five sectors: aerospace, energy, bioscience, enabling technologies and consumer products and creative services. 

“We wanted to identify the business clusters that are natural for Jefferson County, so to speak,” Kent said. 

The Jeffco EDC plans to spend about $1.5 million of the initiative’s budget over five years on recruiting new businesses. The goal is to generate about 25 to 30 new business prospects a quarter, which would be a 200 percent increase over what the Jeffco EDC currently helps to create. 

All three county commissioners agreed that creating more economic growth in Jeffco is important. Yet all three also mentioned how tight the county’s budget is already. 

Commissioner Casey Tighe said that for the county to consider investing in the initiative, especially when it’s cutting services and funding for nonprofits, it would have to see a significant return on investment. 

McCasky, a former county commissioner, said the jobs created from the initiative would also help provide tax revenue to help fund county services. 

“A rising tide lifts all ships,” McCasky said. 

McCasky cites the success the EDC has had in retaining businesses and attracting new businesses, despite the recession. 

“The last five years, it’s been tough on most anybody involved in the private business sector in the United States of America, especially for those groups that are specifically involved in retaining and attracting primary jobs,” McCasky said.

In the past five years, McCasky said, the EDC has been involved in keeping or creating 7,478 jobs within the county. Included in that number are about 200 jobs created when Coleman, a camping equipment company, relocated its corporate headquarters to Golden in 2012, He said another 200 or so jobs came from Trimble, a technology company that McCasky said the EDC helped in expanding its operations in Westminster. 

The EDC plans to officially announce the start of the Forward Jeffco Initiative sometime in May.

 

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.