Economic development discussed at LaPorte community meeting

The Larimer County economic development manager attended County Commissioner Steve Johnson’s Aug. 6 community meeting in LaPorte to explain how the county’s workforce center is improving business opportunities in and around Fort Collins.

Jacob Castillo explained that the county named economic development as a strategic goal around a year ago, and since then his department has been partnering with private organizations around the county to draw new businesses into the city as well as expand current ones.

“In a world where we are continually asked to do more with less, the way we get things done in the economic development world is through collaboration and partnership,” Castillo said. “It really is an exciting time to be doing what I’m doing.”

Castillo named Avago Technologies, Woodward Inc. and Value Plastics as some of the businesses that have benefited from partnering with the county to set up shop or expand in Fort Collins.

One citizen who attended the meeting asked about a business that has not been thriving recently — Bella’s Market in Wellington. The store has been under fire recently from citizens complaining about lack of products on the store’s shelves.

Johnson explained that despite his objections, the county commissioners had voted to settle a lawsuit with Bella’s Market several years ago by exempting them from paying property taxes for two years. Now, the county is seeing the consequences of that decision.

“Business ventures are always risky and the county needs to be careful with how they invest in them,” Johnson said. “Our job isn’t to be business partners or take risks with the public’s money.”

Another citizen asked about how the continuous development of student housing in Fort Collins affects economic development in the city.

“Student housing has always been a long-standing problem in Fort Collins,” Johnson said. “We are a silent partner in that, (the city) doesn’t ask for our permission or ask what we think at all.

“We try to make the process as easy as possible for developers but we don’t do anything to encourage it,” Johnson added.

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