Longmont Reaches for the Future

By Christopher Wood — March 7, 2018

LONGMONT — A lot of different factors are coming into play that should boost Longmont’s position in the broader regional economy.

The city’s position as a bridge between the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado has been discussed previously in this space, but many other trends also point to a solid future in economic development.

That was apparent at the Advance Longmont Economic Development Summit, presented by the Longmont Economic Development Partnership, Feb. 28, at the Plaza Convention Center. Jessica Erickson, president and CEO of the LEDP, kicked off the event by noting some highlights of 2017. Among them:

  • Longmont boasted about 55,000 total jobs across all sectors, with a population of about 93,000. Longmont’s job growth of about 1 percent matched that of Boulder County and exceeded that of Colorado and the United States overall.
  • Average wages exceeded $51,000, better than the state and U.S. figures.
  • The North Metro Enterprise Zone, which includes portions of Longmont, Lafayette and Broomfield, generated job growth and investment in areas that have lagged behind, with 36 businesses certified within the zone and $643,000 in tax credits claimed.
  • Longmont’s rate of patent production ranks second only to Boulder.
  • 127 jobs were created in Longmont by new primary employers during 2017, with another 45 created by expansion of existing employers. A total of 621 new primary jobs were announced.

Not a bad year for the LEDP — especially the arrival of J.M. Smucker’s new 500-job plant under construction along Colorado Highway 119. But particularly intriguing for me is the focus on four targeted industries. I was privileged to moderate a panel featuring key individuals from within the targeted industries of Advanced Technology, Bioscience, Creative Arts & Culinary, and Professional Service and I.T.

Among the highlights:

  • Advanced Technology: Tom Bugnitz, CEO of Manufacturer’s Edge, said Longmont includes a good mix of small and large manufacturers, both of which are vital to a healthy manufacturing cluster. While some local manufacturers produce goods for the aerospace or defense industry, he said, others produce beer or products for the outdoor industry, providing innovation and creativity.
  • Bioscience:David Kerr, partner with Berg, Hill, Greenleaf & Ruscitti LLLP, said Colorado has lacked critical mass in the bioscience sector, making it difficult for local firms to attract executives. He said a biotech incubator focused on the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado would benefit the sector, perhaps something akin to what exists at the Anschutz campus in Aurora.
  • Creative Arts & Culinary:Kimberlee McKee, executive director of the Longmont Downtown Development Authority, said the creative arts extend well beyond what one might typically think, encompassing everything from the arts to architecture, software development and much more. Longmont’s creative scene also benefits from a thriving craft-beer and culinary sector, helping build the creative class and adding to the overall ambiance of the city.
  • Professional Services & I.T.:Monica Coughlin, chief operating officer of the Colorado Technology Association, said the tech economy continues to expand in Colorado, with startups and new employers adding to a wealth of existing companies. Longmont stands to secure similar high-tech growth, given its skilled workforce, patent activity and the lower cost of real estate.

The panel discussion could have extended well beyond the allotted hour, but it provided a taste of what lies ahead for a growing city.

Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or cwood@bizwest.com.