• 09/04/2018 4:31 PM | Deleted user
    Written by Morgan Cullen of Colorado Municipal League

    In August, the Colorado Municipal League conducted its first ever economic development mobile tour in partnership with Downtown Colorado Inc. (DCI). The day-long outing offered an opportunity for CML’s members to learn more about Downtown Development Authorities (DDA) and the potential economic benefits they can provide for a city or town’s central business district.

    The tour bus departed from CML headquarters for Ft. Collins and Windsor, Colorado whose DDAs have revitalized the downtown areas of both communities. Participants met with the DDA directors from both municipalities as well as elected officials, business owners and developers who have all played a role in the success of these areas. Even Windsor Mayor, Kristie Melendez and Ft. Collins City Councilman, Ray Martinez were present to offer their perspectives on how local governments and DDAs can support each other for the long-term benefit of their communities. The tour also included two panel discussions the first over lunch at a Ft. Collins brewery and the second included desert at a coffee house that recently opened its’ doors inside the Windsor DDA.

    C:\Users\mcullen\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Outlook\3LRG5EYM\IMG_3019.JPGBrinkman Developer Todd Park, discusses a brand new development in Ft. Collins that serves a business incubator for new business owners in the city. The development worked collaboratively with the Ft. Collins DDA to get off the ground.

    Unlike the more common Urban Renewal Areas (URAs), DDAs are an economic development tool that has only been employed by 16 municipalities across the state. While each municipality is limited to jus one DDA, it can leverage a number of financing tools like Tax Increment Financing (TIF), mill levy increases and sales tax to make sizeable investments within the district. And the revenue generated can be used for many different purposes such as building renovation, infrastructure improvements, marketing, holiday decorations and landscaping. (If you would like learn more about the differences between the types of special districts, visit our partner PUMA's wonderful resource page)

    Following the tour, a number of CML and DCI participants commented about the tangible benefits that a DDA can provide and are seriously considering implementing one in their hometown.

    If you would like to tour an active DDA please join us on our Longmont DDA tour which will focused on activating plazas along with a progressive happy hour and a dìa de los muertos altar tour.

  • 07/26/2018 11:43 AM | Deleted user

    DCI was recently in Monument, CO holding a Downtown Institute that discussed unconventional and low-cost ways of implementing pop-up projects such as a painted crosswalk, a roll-out bike lane, and temporary signage to promote walkability as jumping-off points to bring interest and participation into the community.

    Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) has been working with the Downtown Monument Stakeholders groups since November 2017 to craft and implement objectives and action steps around Branding, Organizational Development, Placemaking and Wayfinding.  To achieve these goals, DCI works with the locals to understand assets and needs to further downtown initiatives. DCI has helped to develop and facilitate meeting agendas to engage the community in downtown.

    In April 2018, Monument served as a DCI Challenge Studio Community. DCI shaped the content of a workshop based on the Monument challenge around Civic Pride. The workshop was designed to transform the difficult challenges and problems into promising opportunities. Participants worked side-by-side with leading industry experts and local peer networks to craft problem-solving plans that result in improved futures for all. In the process, the participating communities are connected into supporting networks and resources; helping them to get the job done. Through this process, DCI realized the next steps for Monument were in Tactical Urbanism to engage people, reshape space for the use of people over cars, and to just have fun telling the Monument story!

    DCI worked to engage facilitators from C+B Design, Radian | Placematters, and Yes Plan Do! To come to Monument for a fun day to showcase the importance of engagement through test projects through education and actually doing!

    The community oriented design firm, Radian, Inc. presented on the critical nature of civic participation as being a core tenant of smart urban design. Communities often hold the view that impactful design is necessarily expensive and a large commitment. However, Ken Snyder from Radian, Inc. discussed how experimentation and pop-ups street amenities – known as tactical urbanism – can have a huge impact with low cost while allowing the community to gauge what is right for them.

    Promoting complete streets, often encompassing bike lanes, parklets, urban forestry, public art, etc., activates corridors such as your community’s Main Street and enables a “go-to-them” approach with your residents and stakeholders. Mr. Snyder was keen to note that this approach can be more effective than digital outreach and uses community connections and networks to do the talking for you.

    Radian and DCI set up a demonstration pop-up bike lane in less than 5 minutes!

    Rachel Hultin of Yes Plan Do! discussed an incremental approach to urbanism and described some of the common pitfalls of efforts to beautify downtown or to change a streetscape. One such pitfall is what she calls “Fuzzy Visioning” where a project is considered a problem to be solved instead of something that the community can create. This runs into the danger of relegating your vision to the background.

    Another issue that Ms. Hultin highlighted was the importance of incrementalism. There is a risk in committing to projects that are battles you are unlikely to win and to trying to tackle them all at once is a mistake. In tandem with demonstration and pop-up experimentation, taking small battles one at a time is a recipe for success.

    Residents are engaged to participate in the crosswalk painting as they make their way to the Art Hop

    Kristin Cypher of C+B Design gave a presentation on branding, signage, and how this can improve connectivity in the community. Signage is not merely to find directions, but also is involved in place making, it communicates an image, and it can also reflect the heritage of the community. Similarly to the previous speakers, Kristin made the point that signage does not have to be an in-depth and expensive project. Demonstration and temporary signage can do a long way to improve your streetscape and many of these temporary signs can last for a general time frame of one year.

    Participants work with Kristin Cypher to show Art Hop attendees around to local businesses around Monument

    Stay in the loop about all of our events and join us August 16th for a tour of DDAs in Action with Fort Collins and Windsor!

  • 06/27/2018 2:19 PM | Deleted user

    Written by David Milder of Danth, Inc.

    The White Paper

    “Toward an Effective Economic Development Strategy for Smaller Communities (under 35,000).” By David Milder

    The Challenges

    In October of 2017, I posted the above referenced White Paper that outlined my thoughts about how the construction of economic development strategies for smaller communities, especially those in rural areas, should be approached (1). Since then, two data-related findings have come to my attention that have caused me to review some of the arguments I presented in that paper:

    • I argued in the White Paper, reflecting conventional wisdom among economic development experts, that the lack of jobs was seen as an important constraint on the ability of small rural communities to prosper and retain their populations, especially their Millennials. My recommendations were to try to improve the ability of residents to earn more money and to recruit new residents who would not need new jobs because they were retired and financially comfortable, could bring their jobs with them, or could create their own jobs. However, today, many rural counties, and probably the small towns within them, are sharing in the relatively low unemployment rates, under 5%, that are to be found across the nation. Do small towns in these counties then still need to enhance the earning power of their residents? Does my White Paper’s analysis on this point still stand or need revision?
    • A major thrust of my argument in the White Paper was that smaller communities should not focus their economic development efforts on chasing after employers who might bring lots new jobs to the communities because they are hard to recruit and relatively few of their residents would get the jobs (most would go to outsiders). Instead, I strongly suggested that primary strategic focus should instead be placed on their resident “contingent entrepreneurs” who are in relatively insecure employment situations and might constitute 30% to 40% of their workforces. The strategic approach I suggested was in essence an attempt to retain and expand these micro businesses. However, the findings of a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report released in June of 2018 suggest that my estimate of “contingent entrepreneurs” was far too high. Again, does my White Paper’s analysis on this point still stand or need revision?

    County Unemployment Rates: A Look at Wisconsin,  New York, and South Dakota

    Low county unemployment rates came to my attention as I was going over some data about a rural small town in WI. Looking at five distinct years of unemployment data for its county (Grant County, see table),  except for the time around the Great Recession in 2010, its unemployment rate was  4.3%  or lower, and its rate in April of 2018 was just 2.4%. That was even lower than its 2.9% rate back in 2000. Economists have generally accepted unemployment rates around 5% as normal (2). According to that benchmark, Grant County’s unemployment rates have usually been normal or even lower than normal.

    This question then arose: is Grant County an outlier or are rural counties in WI generally experiencing relatively low unemployment rates?

    Using a list of WI’s rural and urban counties, I looked at their unemployment rates in April of 2018 (see above table). Yes, the average 3.6% rate among the 46 rural counties is higher than the 3.3% average for all 72 counties and the average 2.7% rate for the 26 urban counties, but the really important point is that the rate for the rural counties was just 3.6%. Moreover, the median unemployment rate for the rural counties was 3.25%, which means that 50% of these counties had rates lower than 3.25%.

    Then the question for me became: Is the situation in Wisconsin an outlier? Given time and resource constraints, I decided to look at the counties in New York and South Dakota, two states quite different in character from WI and from each other. NY has an economy dominated by a huge metropolitan area around NYC. Its upstate manufacturing and agricultural industries (e.g., milk) were facing problems long before the advent of the Great Recession. The state also has many sizeable cities besides NYC such as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Schenectady, Utica, Troy and Binghamton. Many are doing poorly. For instance, Syracuse has the 13th highest poverty rate among cities in the US.  South Dakota is more sparsely populated, less industrialized and more rural that NY or WI.

    The average unemployment rate for NY’s 27 rural counties, 5.9%, is higher than the average for all of the state’s counties, 4.6%, and for its urban counties, 3.6%. It also is 63% higher than the rate for WI’s rural counties. However, it is just 0.9% above the 5% benchmark for normalcy. The unemployment rate for SD’s rural counties was 4.2%, below the 5% benchmark and not that much above the 3.9% rate of the state’s urban districts.

    The results from these three states suggest that the lack of jobs is not currently a major economic problem for rural areas in many states.

    What, then, are the major economic problems in these counties? One is nominal population growth. As a recent study from the Pew Research Center stated: “…rural counties have made only minimal (population) gains since 2000 as the number of people leaving for urban or suburban areas has outpaced the number moving in.” Also, its survey found that  rural residents were less likely to want to move to a new community and more likely to live near a family member.(3).   

    Another can be seen by looking, again at Grant County. Although Pew found its population had grown about 1% between 2000 and 2016, a recent study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition reported that an hourly wage of about $13.25 is required in that county to afford renting a 2-bedroom apartment at a Fair Market Rate, while the estimated average hourly wage of renters is only about $9.68 (4). That means that 26.9% of the Fair Market Rent is unaffordable for the average renters. In turn, that underscores another important point that is part of the conventional wisdom among economic development experts: rural areas need more than just jobs, they need well-paying jobs, one that provide at least living wages. A factor that adds to the issue’s complexity is that that living wages are not defined just by market forces, but also by the characteristics of the households involved. The table below shows what a living wage would be for various types of households in Grant County (5). What also pops out from that table is just how much more income households with children require.


    This table is From the Out of Reach 2018 report

    It seems that rural residents are willing to cope with a high degree of financial stress to stay in a rural area and close to their families. For some, that stress or perhaps the fear of that stress, reaches the point where they decide to leave.

    My White Paper addressed the adequately paying jobs issue in a number of ways. It saw the creation of Small Town Entrepreneurial Environments (STEEs) as a way to:

    • Help contingent entrepreneurs to find more and better paying work opportunities or assignments in local and larger market areas and to then help prepare these workers to win and successfully complete them.
    • Stimulate and enable local retailers to implement an omni-channel marketing strategy that can penetrate larger market areas.
    • Stimulate entrepreneurs with no employees to not only increase their revenues, but also expand and hire workers.
    • Help local residents identify remote work opportunities and, if they need it, to steer them to the types of training those job opportunities required.
    • Create an attractive entrepreneurial environment that could attract more capable contingent entrepreneurs and small business operators who prefer living in small towns with high quality of life characteristics, but now reside in urban or suburban locations.

    STEEs can still usefully perform these needed functions even when local county unemployment rates are relatively low, both historically or compared to urban counties. Though more people may be employed, many of those with jobs may need and want help to find better paying employment.

    The strategy of recruiting firms that will bring lots of jobs to small rural towns does not mean either that a) substantial numbers of those jobs will go to local residents or b) that those jobs will be well-paying, as many small towns have learned from the Walmart and Amazon distribution centers that opened in them. Indeed, many of the firms that seek rural locations do so because they are looking for lower labor costs.

    So far, nationally, our resurgent economy has substantially reduced unemployment, but to date it has not significantly increased the incomes of many of our households, especially those with wage earners in non-supervisory positions or in rural areas. Until that does happen, STEEs can be of considerable value.

    It seems to me, then, that relatively low to normal unemployment rates in rural counties do not diminish the relevancy or the need for the kind of strategic approach I outlined in my White Paper.

    Also, in many states, such as WI, their rural economies are tied to both agriculture and manufacturing. Manufacturing, which tends to be cyclical, has been doing well in recent years. An eventual cyclical downturn or increased robotization may again increase rural unemployment, again worsening rural economic conditions.

     The Number of Contingent Entrepreneurs and Their Importance.

    At the heart of the strategic approach I argued for in my White Paper were the residents of smaller towns who were, in the BLS’s vocabulary, engaged in contingent and alternative employment arrangements and whom I labeled contingent entrepreneurs. The bullet points below present the reasons why I thought they were so strategically important:

    • “In these small towns, increasing portions of their workforces are contingent/non-employer business operators. This is part of a larger national trend: the growth of contingent workers, who now account for 30%- 40% of our national workforce. How will they be helped by the attraction of a large employer to their town? Or would the money spent on attracting the large employer have larger local impacts if it were spent instead on them?”
    • “There are a number of definitions of contingent workers and estimates of their number consequently vary between 30% and 40% of our nation’s workforce. One definition is: ‘Contingent workers are defined as freelancers, independent contractors, consultants, or other outsourced and non- permanent workers who are hired on a per-project basis’. Whether nonemployer businesses are included is not clear for some definitions, while they seem to be either explicitly included in other definitions or implied in still others. In any case, they are perhaps best thought of as entrepreneurs operating micro-businesses – and perhaps we should be calling them contingent entrepreneurs because it is a more fitting name.”
    • “I would argue that, strategically, these contingent entrepreneurs are extremely important in our smaller communities. They represent a large portion, possibly 30% to 40%, of the residential workforce. Contingent entrepreneurs usually include those in both blue and white- collar occupations. The number of resident contingent entrepreneurs will greatly outnumber the number of jobs that any big employer lured to the town is likely to provide to local residents – or even those attracted to the region.”
    • “Some contingent entrepreneurs are doing well, while others are doing poorly. If a small town’s resident contingent entrepreneurs are doing poorly, then that town’s economy will very probably also be suffering, even if a big employer has also been lured into the community. Flailing contingents are more likely to need financial assistance from public and nonprofit sources. They are also more likely to move to other climes that offer better employment opportunities. On the other hand, if the town’s contingent workforce is prospering, then the town’s residential units are likely to be occupied and improved, its shops and eateries busy and its playing fields and cinemas filled. The contingents may also grow and develop start-ups that do employ workers.”

    My reporting that these contingent entrepreneurs may account for 30% to 40% of the local workforce was based on these numbers being presented in numerous reputable publications since 2010. For example:

    • In 2010, the Intuit 2020 Report stated that: “Today, roughly 25-30 percent of the U.S. workforce is contingent, and more than 80 percent of large corporations plan to substantially increase their use of a flexible workforce in coming years” (6).
    • In 2015, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), responding to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, looked into the contingent workforce and its size, characteristics, earnings, and benefits. It found that: ”The size of the contingent workforce can range from less than 5 percent to more than a third of the total employed labor force, depending on widely-varying definitions of contingent work” (7).
    • An article in Quartz in 2017 cited a 2014 survey done for the Freelancers Union that found that “there are 53 million people doing freelance work in the US – 34% of the national workforce” (8).

    As can be seen in the above table, the recently published BLS study results indicate that those engaged in contingent and alternative employment arrangements only account for between 11.4% to 11.9% of our national workforce. The difference between 11% and 30% to 40% is obviously very significant numerically. But, is it significant analytically or from a strategic viewpoint?    

    First, let me acknowledge my respect and admiration for the BLS’s surveys as I have stated publicly on several previous occasions. However, the GAO’s 2015 report made a very critical point that must be kept in mind when considering the BLS’s findings: estimates of contingent workers and those in alternative  employment arrangements differ because of differences in how those workers are defined and the data sets that are used to study them. It may be claimed that the BLS’s definitions are particularly stringent and therefore limiting. For example, one of the analyses in the GAO report estimates that 16.2% of the workforce are “standard part-time workers” and part of the contingent workforce. These workers are not included in the BLS estimates. Moreover, the BLS only looked at primary jobs, so its sample does not include second jobs, be they fulltime or part-time.  The latter would exclude, for example:

    • The arts work of many artists who need a fulltime non-arts job to support themselves and their families, but whose artistic activities constitute part-time jobs and what they want to do fulltime. Or the person who has a fulltime job as a professional planner, but part-time employment as a real estate developer. Or a fulltime university professor who also owns and manages 10 rental apartments.
    • Workers whose fulltime jobs cannot cover their household’s financial needs and who also have one or more part-time jobs to fill the gap.

    Lastly, BLS excluded jobs associated with the gig economy e.g., those with Uber, Lyft, Taskrabbit, AirBNB, etc. from their survey.

    In my judgement the BLS estimates should be taken  as a very solid minimum estimate of the contingent and alternative arrangements workforce, with the exact number being treated as not knowable at this point in time because of a lack of consensus about how the subject group should be defined. Moreover, I would argue that the minimal BLS numbers are sufficiently large to merit considerable strategic consideration – and that, not the “true” number of contingents, is the critical question. My White Paper needs to be amended to include these points and to somewhat deemphasize the estimates of 30% to 40%. Nevertheless, the critiques of the BLS’s definitions of contingent and alternative work arrangements that followed its recent report combined with the prior research findings produced by very reputable investigators strongly hint that their true number of these workers may well be as high as 30% or so.

    The recent BLS report also sparked a debate about the so-called gig economy and the impacts of firms like Uber and Lyft. However, the argument in my White Paper was quite independent of any analysis of, or advocacy for, a gig economy. My concern was: rather than chasing corporations that supposedly will provide lots of jobs, what assets can small towns best leverage to increase the earnings power of local residents? The folks that fell into my “contingent entrepreneur” category had two attributes that might be leveraged:

    • Many of them were indeed entrepreneurs, whether or not they were incorporated or working fulltime. They incurred considerable risk and had to compete for and win opportunities to earn money on a relatively recurrent basis. If an effective entrepreneurial environment (a STEE) could be built up around them, they might become more successful financially and able to compete in larger market areas. They might also create start-ups that would hire employees. My concern was about their retention and growth: how they could be retained in their communities and how they could earn higher incomes.
    • Many of them are vulnerable, with low incomes, no benefits and unhappy with their uncertain contingent employment situations. As the table below shows – using BLS data – they prefer traditional jobs. Lower unemployment rates may mean that more of these workers have found steady, more secure fulltime jobs, though their wages may not be at desired levels. The strong information brokerage and networking functions of an  effective STEE would be likely to at least help some others to find fulltime and possibly better paying jobs. Some of those jobs might be remote ones.

    The table below presents data for a town in the Midwest with  population of about 3,900 that is located in a designated rural county. Let’s see how these data can help answer two questions:

    • Are there contingent entrepreneurs to warrant a program to develop a STEE in this community’s downtown?
    • Are there enough of them to use in marketing program to recruit more contingent entrepreneurs to live and work in this community?

    To help answer the first question, let’s also consider the fact, mentioned in my White Paper, that relatively large firms moving into this community are most likely to average about 50 new job opportunities and the vast majority of them will not go to local residents. The table below shows how many residents of Town X would get jobs at various capture rates. Which is more likely to serve the needs of Town X’s residents a) a program to help its contingent entrepreneurs become more successful or b) a recruitment program aimed at bringing in more employers who can provide on average 50 jobs?

    Extrapolating from the BLS data, in the above table on Town X, I conservatively estimate that its contingent entrepreneurs number between 235 to 245 of its residents. Using On-the -Map  and other data from the Census Bureau, the table presents an estimate of 80 people with fulltime jobs who work at home and 74 residents who are fulltime self-employed but not incorporated. About seven of those working at home may have remote jobs.  Most of these folks are likely to quickly learn about a STEE creation program. How many would then use it now cannot be estimated. Nor can how many will benefit from it. However, activities such as social networking events at local bars or restaurants and distributing information about online freelancer job marts and remote job marts can be done with relative ease and at relatively low-cost.  

    The chasing companies with jobs strategy has the following advantages:

    • Possible increased tax revenues
    • Possible new jobs for residents, with their number being uncertain and may be zero.

    The disadvantages are far more numerous:

    • The odds of a small town recruiting such a job-rich company are relatively low.
    • The cost of an effective program is likely to be significant and its successes, if any, will probably take a good deal of time to achieve.
    • Local residents are unlikely to either know or “feel” the recruitment program unless firms are attracted, and new jobs are offered.
    • In Town X, according to On the Map data, 29% of those who work in that town also live there. If it attracts one firm that brings 50 new jobs, about 15 town residents probably will get them. For more residents to benefit more firms with jobs must be recruited. If three firms were recruited – quite an achievement for a small town -- then about 45 residents might benefit.
    • A significant probability that the jobs offered will not be well-paying.
    • The town may have to offer incentives to the new firm(s) in the form of tax reductions, cheap land or infrastructure improvements that adversely impact on municipal finances.
    • Possible traffic and environmental problems.

    There is no certainty of success for either of these programs. Local leaders will have to decide and take a chance based on “the best available information. However, one might argue that communities such as Town X should first try the STEE program because it has the potential for benefiting many more residents and then, if that program fails to meet its goals, to switch to a program aimed at helping the existing employers in town to grow. If local employers are few and/or weak, then the  recruitment of outside companies that bring in some more jobs for residents may make sense.

    The 80 people in Town X who work at home are enough to help develop a quality of life recruitment program aimed at skilled people who will either bring their jobs with them or create their jobs or create new companies that will have employees. There are enough to populate meeting places and events so that a STEE would have a real tangible presence. Their public endorsements of the quality of life in Town X as well as the benefits of the STEE can be strong marketing tools. Their meetings with prospects and becoming “buddies” with those newly arrived also can be very powerful recruitment tools.

    There is broad consensus among economic development professionals that retention and expansion is the most cost effective meta strategy. The strategic approach outlined in my White Paper essentially applies it to the micro businesses of a small town’s contingent entrepreneurs. David Carlson, the administrator of the city of Lancaster, WI, argues that, viewed as a collective group,  they are analogous to being the town’s largest employer. He then asks: “How much time would you spend working with them to keep them a growing business?”

    I think that is point, game set and match.


     1) N. David Milder. “Toward an Effective Economic Development Strategy for Smaller Communities (under 35,000).” https://www.dropbox.com/s/tnwdomfzwrkv5i1/White-Paper-Toward-an-Effective-Economic-Development-Strategy-for-Smaller-Communities-1.pdf?dl=0

    2) See: Justin Weidner and John C. Williams. “What Is the New Normal Unemployment Rate?”  FRBSF ECONOMIC LETTER, 2011-05 February 14, 2011

    3) Kim Parker, Juliana Horowitz, Anna Brown, Richard Fry, D’Vera Cohn and Ruth Igielnik. “What Unites and Divides Urban, Suburban and Rural Communities.” Pew Research Center. May 22, 2018.     http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/05/22/what-unites-and-divides-urban-suburban-and-rural-communities/  pp 89, p.1 and 59.

    4) National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Out of Reach 2018,” p.265.  http://nlihc.org/oor

    5) Ibid. p. 265

    6) “Intuit 2020 Report: Twenty Trends That Will Shape the Next Decade.” P.20. October 2010. https://http-download.intuit.com/http.intuit/CMO/intuit/futureofsmallbusiness/intuit_2020_report.pdf

    7) GAO. “Contingent Workforce: Size, Characteristics, Earnings, and Benefits.” GAO-15-168R Contingent Workforce. P.3 https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-168R

    8) The survey had 5,052 adult respondents and was conducted  by Edelman Berland for the Freelancers Union.  https://www.slideshare.net/oDesk/global-freelancer-surveyresearch-38467323/1


    For more information about DCI's services for smaller communities, visit our Services pages.

  • 06/13/2018 10:51 AM | Deleted user

    In January 2018, Happy City led Idaho Springs along with Downtown Colorado, Inc. and the Mountain Metro Association of Realtors in a Happy Mapping Audit for the Clear Creek School District site in Idaho Springs. We are excited to share the toolkit that came from the process.

    This work builds on Urban3’s economic modeling analysis, which is intended to offer solutions to strengthen tax and job density in the county. Through thoughtful planning and development of priority sites identified in previous efforts, the municipality has a unique opportunity to nurture an even healthier, happier place, which is better equipped to handle the challenges of this century.

    Happy City offers a set of practical tools and recommendations to:

    1. Strengthen the social and economic vitality of Idaho Springs residents through happy urban design interventions.

    2. Emphasize solutions to enhance connectivity for priority mixed use housing developments.

    3. Assess how the Clear Creek School Site Development strengthens the case for a multimodal hub adjacent to the highway interchange.

    Read the full report here

    We look forward to working with Idaho Springs as they further all of the exciting projects in the town. Take a look at their Challenge Studio Report to learn more about the formation of an Urban Renewal Authority.

    If you are interested in becoming a Challenge Studio Community, we are now accepting applications. Complete this brief application and give your community access to specialized resources to overcome your challenges. Deadline extended until June 20th!

  • 05/18/2018 9:55 AM | Deleted user

    This week I attended a conference that is all about local government. And no, it’s not your typical local gov conference and it may not be an acronym you have heard of before. It is #ELGL18 and this year it is in Golden, CO. This conference brings together local government leaders from all around the country to nerd out on data, budgeting, and water rights. It sounds dry, but ELGL has a way of making it one of the most engaging conferences. Just take a look at the #ELGL18 Twitter feed. Full of quotes, questions, and gifs!

    via GIPHY

    I am extremely happy to be at this conference representing DCI and learning more about the local governments and local government processes we work with all the time. Engaging Local Government Leaders is a big tent professional association full of innovative local government leaders with a passion for connecting, communicating and educating. I am here to connect with young leaders like myself. As a part of my work for DCI, I am actively trying to partner and empower Emerging Leaders in all types of fields connected to making our communities vibrant. (See my Emerging Leaders blog post from a few weeks ago).

    My favorite session was from Jay Anderson from Colorado Springs called “Talking to Strangers”. Jay talked about building trust and asked “What’s the point of engaging? To build their trust. Trust is the secret sauce that allows our government to work”. Well, to build trust we have to communicate but “Citizen Engagement is not a communications thing, it’s a process thing”. 

    We have to integrate the engagement throughout our entire process and with every way we share information. I met a man yesterday who works for a local city and is part of the marketing/outreach team for the utilities department with a lot of information to communicate about their process.

    I am looking forward to the last day here at #ELGL18 and I hope I can engage with all of you at our next Emerging Leader event on June 6th called Millennial Transportation Trends in the Sharing Economy.

  • 05/15/2018 9:46 AM | Deleted user

    In 2018, Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) kicked off our urban renewal training calendar in partnership with Colorado Municipal League (CML), Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (BHFS), Colorado URA Sponsors, and the City of Fort Collins to facilitate our first 2018 Urban Renewal Authority (URA) Training Series. The first session of our 2018 URA Training held at the Innosphere in Fort Collins on May 11th and included both 101 and 201 sessions to both educate individuals and board members on the basics of urban renewal but also took the conversation further for more advanced urban renewal practice.

    Purpose: The City of Fort Collins and the Fort Collins Urban Renewal Authority requested a special Urban Renewal Training held locally as Fort Collins expands their URA Board to include representatives from the County, School, and Special Districts. The City engaged DCI to plan and facilitate this training as DCI is Colorado’s association for building awareness, education, and training for URAs in our state.

    Downtown Colorado, Inc. believes that urban renewal is an important tool to encourage good development and land use in Colorado. Building an informed and aware Board of Directors for urban renewal authorities creates a stronger network of urban renewal advocates across the state. This is especially important as many of DCI’s URA members are adapting to comply with recent legislation and to expand partner networks for urban renewal. DCI has received strong feedback that these sessions are helpful and necessary to broaden the understanding of urban renewal, tax increment financing, and the role of the board and staff in fostering quality redevelopment projects.

    Hosting Venue Details: Thank you to Innosphere for hosting our event. Innosphere is Colorado’s leading technology incubator accelerating the success of high-impact science and technology startups and scaleups. Innosphere’s programs focus on ensuring companies are investor-ready, connecting entrepreneurs with experienced advisors and early hires, making introductions to corporate and strategic partners to drive customer traction, exit planning, and accelerating top line revenue growth. Once accepted into the program, companies receive ongoing support to ensure they’re getting the know-how to raise the right kind of capital and developing all the resources to grow.

    Participants Included: Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Butler Snow, City of Evans, City of Fort Collins, City of Lafayette, City of Sterling, Downtown Colorado, Inc., El Paso County, Fort Collins Landmark Preservation Commission, Fort Collins URA Board, Fountain Urban Renewal Authority, Health District of Northern Larimer County, Larimer County Assessor's Office, Leadville URA, Pinnacle Consulting Group, Inc., Pridian Design Group, City of Wheat Ridge, Special District Association. St. Vrain Valley School District, Town of Firestone, Town of Frederick, Town of Lyons Urban Renewal, Town of Mead, Trihydro, White Bear Ankele Tanaka & Waldron, and Yes Plan Do!

    Some Testimonials from the Event

    "I joined the URA board after its formation, so it was very helpful for me to know the law behind URA formation and the steps to set it up. I also had many questions about the undertakings/activities and where/what they could include that were answered."

    "The session helped me to get a "big picture" view of URAs as they relate to communities, municipalities, developers and special districts"

    Speakers, facilitators, and event planners included: Steve Art, Wheat Ridge URA; Josh Birks, City of Fort Collins; Katherine Correll, Downtown Colorado, Inc.; Nathan Klein, LC Real Estate Group, LLC; Patrick Rowe, City of Fort Collins; Carolynne White, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck; and Dee Wisor, Butler Snow.

  • 05/04/2018 3:00 PM | Deleted user

    The pressure is on… you need to find a job, you need to meet new people, you need to advance your career. Let’s be real, networking is intimidating. Especially if you have to approach an established expert and whip up something impressive to say. Or you are trying to break into the ‘old boys club’. Some attempts at networking go better than others and of course there are ton of benefits to going to almost any networking event. However, I personally believe that groups/events that are focused on young professionals can be extremely beneficial.

    Downtown Colorado, Inc. has an Emerging Leaders membership. I want to explain what it’s all about and why it works well with other memberships you may have.

    • Our staff is made up of young professionals
    • We place AmeriCorps VISTAs (usually young professionals) who are working on a variety of projects all over the state
    • We work with a wide breadth of professions including planners, architects, engineers, city/state employees, non-profits, and more.
    • We partner with many other orgs: APA, CNU, CCCMA, CML,  EDCC etc. to share a breadth of events with you
    • We have a Jobs and RFPs page that comes straight to you from our member communities
    • Discounts to all DCI events

    • Peers that have similar amount of experience and can speak to the struggle/journey
    • New ideas
    • People familiar with the current strategies and methods of finding a job i.e. LinkedIn, networking, informational interviews, etc.
    • Fresh and fun event ideas. i.e. ‘drink and do and LEARN’

    DCI is starting up a series of events for Emerging Leaders that will feature presentations and discussions from Emerging Leaders. This month, we have Mallory Baker talking about the impacts of Millennial Transportation Habits with Happy Hour After. We would like to send out a call for session ideas. If you have a passion project you would like to share, we want to give you a platform to share.

    If you have any questions about our Emerging Leader Membership, please contact marketing@downtowncoloradoinc.org.

    PS I will be attending #ELGL18 in Golden May 17-18 so keep an eye for updates from emerging local government leaders!

  • 03/29/2018 11:10 AM | Kylie Brown (Administrator)

    These last few weeks have been busy ones at Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) as we prepare for our Annual Conference, IN THE GAME, April 10-13 in Boulder. For me, that has meant driving from the Arkansas River Valley in Southeast Colorado to the mesas of the Colorado River on the Western Slope in preparation for DCI’s Challenge Studios. This is the first of 3 blog posts highlighting the 2018 DCI Challenge Studio communities.

    DCI has partnered with the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs, for this year's Challenge Studio. Senior Fellow Randy Harrision has made the Challenge Studios a focus of his Economic Development course for Master of Public Administration students. Each student has been paired with a community, and his bringing a fresh perspective and their own skillset to assist in coordinating the challenge.


    We arrive in Leadville on a bright, blue sky morning, with snow covering the ground. Our meeting with local stakeholders included a variety of perspectives. The Main Street program, city leadership, local nonprofits, Lake County, and citizen advisory boards all met with Paige Cipperly (MPA student), Randy Harrison, and myself.  

    Leadville stakeholders meet with the DCI and CU Denver team.

    Downtown Leadville is facing several interrelated challenges—the need to rehabilitate historic buildings, a lack of affordable housing, and the desire to increase downtown vibrancy. Leadville’s Main Street program, led by DCI VISTA Destinee Lukianoff, partnered with City Leaders and connected the issues to form one goal: the rehabilitation of the upper floors of downtown buildings into apartments. Obstacles to meeting this goal, however, include the cost of construction in Lake County, a complex negotiation and administrative process and the desire to maintain Leadville’s National Historic Landmark status.

    Buildings like this one in downtown Leadville present tremendous opportunities for upper story apartments.

    If you are interested in historic preservation, housing, architecture, real estate development, or downtown revitalization, come to the DCI IN THE GAME Conference, April 10-13 and be a part of the two day intensive workshop with Leadville community leaders as they work to transform underutilized community assets! 


    Monument, located along I-25 between Castle Rock and Colorado Springs, has grown rapidly in recent years—but the historic downtown, dating to the 1880s railroad years, remains underappreciated by both locals and visitors. The challenge for the community is how to build civic pride and vision—to encourage locals to come downtown, to ensure that those on I-25 know about downtown Monument, and t bring new projects- from temporary pop up events to ideas for new infill construction—to vacant spaces downtown.

    Local leaders show off downtown Monument.

    Daniel Summers (MPA Student) and I met with dedicated leaders representing the public, private, and nonprofit sectors at the packed Coffee Cup Coffee to discuss the challenge over brunch. We toured the downtown, and discussed the obstacles to improving engagement—including a commuter population, historic development trends, and wayfinding signage that could better direct people downtown.

    Downtown Monument is a unique and accessible Front Range destination with tremendous potential looking forward.

    However, the community has great resources to work with, including strong leadership, social media platforms, a wonderful downtown park, and a beautiful setting at the base of the foothills. Visual design expert Jim Leggitt and photographer Caleb Alvarado will be working to inspire workshop participants with new visions for downtown. If you are interested in exploring how community members and local groups can take ownership and pride in downtown, and build a vision for the future, join us in Boulder for our IN THE GAME Conference April 10-13 to be a part of the solution.


    Lyons has faced great challenges following the 2013 floods, which added further pressure to housing and strained local businesses. Wayfinding and signage, access to downtown, and parking have became critical concerns for the community. As one of the Challenge Studio communities in Boulder County, DCI is thrilled to have community leaders come to Boulder for the IN THE GAME conference.

    Megan Garn (MPA Student at the School of Public Affairs) visited the community with DCI Executive Director Katherine Correll to prepare for the challenge studio. At the workshop, local leaders and stakeholders are looking forward to building strong relationships with entities throughout Boulder County, and to problem solving with thinkers from throughout the state and beyond.

    If you are interested in housing, wayfinding, parking, and supporting small business in a walkable downtown setting, join the Lyons Challenge Studio during the DCI Conference!

    Downtown Lyons, photo courtesy of Lyons Area Chamber of Commerce

  • 02/23/2018 4:32 PM | Deleted user

    It’s still February, so we’re still celebrating love! The love we have for Colorado communities is so strong we want to make it possible for more people to share in our 2018 Vibrant Downtowns Event, IN THE GAME from April 10-13 in Boulder. This conference will bring together all of the lovers and champions for downtowns and it is an excellent opportunity to have real conversations about real challenges and also come up with real solutions.

    A great way to show your love for your downtown is by submitting a photo to our Crushing on Colorado contest. This contest is our favorite way to showcase the love we have for our state while, at the same time, starting a friendly competition. Crushing on Colorado are the #1 and #2 ways to win a free registration to IN THE GAME.

    #1 The community that submits the most photos will win one free registration

    #2 The community’s photo that receives the most votes will win one free registration

     The details to enter are below.

    We also want to show love to people that are as passionate about learning and growing as we are. Collaboration is so important to the work we do in downtowns. That is why, we would like to offer this deal.

    #3 Anyone who gets three new people to register for the conference, will get one free. (You must identify the three people you will be bringing along with you in an email to communications@downtowncolorado.inc)

    We are looking forward to all of the great things in store! Visit our conference page here and check out our Schedule at a Glance.

    Crushing on Colorado details: Crushing on Colorado is a movement to celebrate the people, places, and objects that make Colorado a wonderful place to live!
    Share a photo of you hugging your "crush" (a favorite Colorado building, business, monument, artwork, or person). Use the hashtag 
    #CrushingOnColo on Facebook or Twitter to enter at http://woobox.com/ehc9jj.

  • 12/22/2017 1:00 PM | Deleted user

    As we head into 2018, we want to thank all of our members and all of the wonderful people we met around the state this year and reflect on all of the discussions, workshops, and solutions that came out of all of our adventures. We celebrated our 35th year in 2017 and every year we are constantly working to bring relevant training and topics to our communities.  The themes of our work in 2017 were affordable housing, more rural and small business training, growing VISTA program (which doubled from 4 sites to 8 sites throughout Colorado!), urban renewal and other special district meetings, new partnerships and members, and much more. We hope to continue our work on these topics this coming year while also weaving in new themes. The following summary is just a snapshot of some of the work we’ve done. It does not capture every wonderful event throughout the entire year.

    Celebrations fro DCI's 35th Birthday Party Celebration (DCI Staff: Eli Levine (former) and Will Cundiff)

    A huge part of what DCI does is provide technical assistance to our communities in innovative forms. We started off the year focused on perhaps the most pressing topic in Colorado, affordable housing. We brought together stakeholders working at many levels, including developers, designers, municipalities (regional and state) for two workshops early in the year, Grand County and Buena Vista. In November, a third Rural Housing Workshop was held in Clear Creek County. We are continuing our innovative approach in January within Clear Creek County with a pilot program in Idaho Springs considering long term development impacts and best practices. During 2017, DCI also completed Downtown Assessments in Parachute and Sheridan. If you are interested in reading some of our technical assistance reports, head to our Reports and Case Studies page. Here are some testimonials from these events.

    “The most useful take away was learning about different ways communities can fund affordable housing and the great examples presented that demonstrated public-private partnerships”

    “Using real-world examples is good. Helps one think about different approaches that could be adapted to, or inform, our unique community situations.”

    "It was a great networking opportunity. I took away a great understanding of what the next steps need to be to move forward."

    Also during 2017, we contributed to the dialogue on homelessness with two City Builder Forums. We then worked on addressing business training later on in the year with our Downtown Institutes for Business in Grand Junction, Hot Sulphur Springs, Yampa, Craig, Monte Vista, Buena Vista, and Walsenburg. These business trainings  served to give businesses hope that they can thrive in an Amazon world. Here are some testimonials from survey respondents in those communities:

    "I really appreciated the fresh approach for helping small businesses by giving new ideas and confirming that we do not have to spend large amounts of money to be competitive in today's business world."

    "Knowing that we are capable of providing the services and products that a bigger city may offer is in reach as long as we set the "bar" above and beyond our norm."

    A tour of Breckenridge as part of our 2017 Vibrant Downtowns Event, IN THE GAME

    The highlight of our year is always our annual Vibrant Downtowns event, IN THE GAME. We had a wonderful conference in Breckenridge in May aimed at getting our communities to put some skin in the game. You can check out the recap of the entire conference here. We flipped the format on the tradition ‘talking heads’ conference and introduced Challenge Studios, workshops based on a challenge facing a participant or a participant’s community that are designed to transform a community’s difficult challenges and problems into promising opportunities. You can see last year’s Challenge Studios reports here. The Challenge Studio format will continue in 2018 in Boulder. The deadline to submit your challenges for next year is January 31st  (remember, we are here to help!). Also be sure to register for the conference in April 2018 by February 1st to take advantage of early bird pricing! After you register, be sure to nominate a project for Governor's Awards!

    We are so excited for 2018 and for many more informative, innovative, and fun events. We continue to strive to serve our Colorado communities with everything we do and we hope you will be a part of the future of vibrant downtowns in Colorado. 

    Come join our Annual Member Meeting on January 31st to participate in shaping our year.

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