Longmont, Colorado is one of the country’s hottest new destinations for creative, tech-minded entrepreneurs. Once a sleepy bedroom community, the city has transformed into a vibrant center of innovation and 21st century thinking.
“It’s got a strong community of high energy innovators,” says Scott G. Converse, Founder of the Longmont Makerspace TinkerMill. “Its workforce is highly educated and adaptable.”
With an average number of patent applications per capita that is ten times higher than the rest of the US, the local culture is buzzing with ingenuity. In fact, so many residents are eager to take their ideas to the next level that Longmont’s makerspace, TinkerMill, is the largest in Colorado. The organization provides these innovators with a shared workspace for collaboration, teaching, learning, and entrepreneurialism.
Longmont’s pro-business policies also help local talent succeed. “The community has a strong pro-business City Council and community leadership team,” says Wendi Nafziger, Interim President of the Longmont Area Economic Council. “Longmont has an exceptionally friendly-to-business local government,” Ms. Nafziger adds.
Infrastructure development has been a priority for the business-friendly city government, and as a result, Longmont “has an excellent infrastructure of city services at low prices, with high quality,” Mr. Converse reports. Moreover, the city is in the process of building a new Gigabit network to every home and business in town. Once completed, this futuristic network will boast some of the highest internet speeds on the planet – at some of the nation’s most competitive rates. “Our low cost of electric utilities, Gigabit services in the broadband arena, quality water and local incentives allow us to offer a positive place to do business,” Mr. Converse summarizes.
The city’s talented workforce, pro-business policies, and advanced infrastructure have attracted a variety of industries. In total, Longmont boasts 220 primary employers across multiple sectors ranging from data storage, semiconductors, aerospace and energy to communications, medical devices, and plastics; software development is one of the strongest local industries. In fact, the Boulder / Longmont area has the highest concentration of software-related jobs in the nation, according to the Software & Information Industry Association. The information technology sector as a whole will continue to grow “as the Gigabit network builds out,” Mr. Converse adds. Manufacturing is also a leading Longmont industry, particularly operations that have the ability to prototype and create new products.
Aerospace, printing, energy, and business services are all rapidly growing sectors within the city. With a diverse, educated population eager to patronize the local culinary scene, Longmont’s craft foods and craft beer enterprises are also gaining a strong – and growing – foothold in the area, and food processing is also on the rise.
And the forward thinking city is working hard to attract even more businesses. Target industries fall into four main categories: Advanced Technology, Bioscience, Professional Services & IT and Creative Arts & Culinary. “We offer incentives to primary employers, those whose customer base is located outside of the metro region (more than 50 percent),” Ms. Nafziger explains. “Those incentives include sales and use tax exemptions on manufacturing and R&D machinery and equipment; fee waivers / rebates on permit fees; and/or a personal property tax rebate on the City’s portion of the personal property tax.”
Longmont also has two major redevelopments underway that will “help shape the way the community lives, works and shops,” Mr. David Starnes, City of Longmont Redevelopment Manager, reports. In the first redevelopment project, an old mall will be replaced by a regional retail and entertainment center called Village at the Peaks. The project “brings a modern open air mall to Longmont,” providing quality shopping and entertainment for residents, as well as “excellent tax revenues for the city,” Mr. Starnes points out. The site, which is slated to open by the end of 2015, will include a Sam’s Club, 12-screen Regal Cinemas and Whole Foods grocery store along with a number of entertainment, shopping and restaurant opportunities.
Longmont’s second major development effort will transform a former Butterball food processing plant into a mixed use development with multi-family residential, retail and office uses. Located downtown, the project “will create badly needed rental housing for the creative class needed to create new products, start up new companies and attract existing companies to Longmont,” says Mr. Starnes. The 27 acre site will be developed in multiple phases, with the first phase scheduled to break ground in 2015. “In all, these transformative redevelopment projects will provide the community with high quality residential, retail, entertainment and office uses as the city continues to grow as a place to live, work and shop,” says Mr. Starnes.
These new redevelopments are sure to improve the city – although Longmont’s quality of life is already remarkably high. The city was named one of the Best Places to Live by CNN/Money Magazine in 2006 and 2008, and again in 2014 by 24/7 Wall St. The community of 90,000 has a friendly, small-town atmosphere – and access to all that Boulder, Denver, and northern Colorado have to offer. This puts Longmont within 30 minutes of the second largest pro-sports market in the world, five universities, and extensive cultural amenities. “Longmont is ‘at the hub of’ where to be to get to all of Colorado’s incredible tourism draws,” Mr. Converse explains. “People should live in and start in Longmont. We’re at the center of all that’s good in this state.”
Increasingly, however, locals don’t have to leave town to enjoy some of the best entertainment and culinary options that the region has to offer. “[We have] expanding entertainment, retail and restaurant choices that rival our sister cities nearby,” Ms. Nancy Rezac, Executive Director of Visit Longmont points out. “The best sushi in Boulder County isn’t in Boulder anymore.” A thriving downtown arts and entertainment district includes performing arts, visual arts and culinary arts “that draw patrons from across the state and beyond,” Ms. Rezac adds. “Additionally, our craft breweries have expanded from three to six in the short period of one year, and these are augmented by a growing presence of distilleries and farm to table restaurants. These amenities, combined with a first-class museum and a well-developed system of bike and walking trails and three municipal golf courses, make Longmont a year-round attraction for outdoor enthusiasts.”
The city also has a relatively low cost of living and an excellent K-12 educational system with an award winning STEM program. And, for those craving adventure, world-class winter sports are only two hours away. With so much to offer it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Longmont has the highest number of people in the region who both live and work within the same city.
And it looks as though there is even more on the horizon for Longmont. “With the Gigabit network, Longmont will become a Startup City with a deep and powerful entrepreneurial ecosystem driving new products, new companies and new job creation,” Mr. Converse states. “Longmont will also become the center of an information systems Mecca with large datacenter resources serving small, medium and large companies, and possibly local, state and federal government needs.”
Longmont is also perfectly positioned to attract more manufacturing business. “Manufacturing is finding its way back to America,” Mr. Converse points out. “And Longmont is exceptionally well positioned to be the center of an advanced technology / manufacturer renaissance that’s coming in the next decade. [Due to] our highly educated and creative workforce, along with our central US location with world class shipping infrastructure nearby, our rich choice of universities within a short commute, and our Gigabit network, low cost power, and exceptionally clean and diverse water sourcing, there are few places like Longmont in the country better positioned to lead in becoming the center of 21st century manufacturing.”
City leaders continue to do their part to propel the city forward and fulfil this vision. “Longmont has an exciting future as it continues to grow,” Ms. Nafziger remarks. “A recently completed community-wide economic development study – Advance Longmont – has brought the economic partners of our city together in a way that has never occurred in the past. Our plans for redevelopment, business growth and recreation services make this the community to live and work in.”