The opposite of too big to fail is not too small to matter. Growing our own did not become obsolete with medical marijuana. Home-grown, human-owned businesses of fewer than 50 employees make or break the Colorado economy. Luring much larger companies to relocate to Colorado, however, traditionally dominates our economic development plans.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's "number one priority is to build an 'Economic Development Plan' from the bottom-up and chart a course for economic revival county by county in Colorado." I know this because I have his memo telling me so, and because I attended one of his nine "Bottom-Up" work sessions.
The Bottom-Up initiative is supposed to mark a new approach to economic development involving local business owners in the process. At the session I attended, however, the usual suspects -- politicians, big business lobbyists, and the economic development experts behind our traditional lure-them-here-with-tax-breaks plans -- dominated the room. The folks who work for or own the smaller companies that will lead the state out of this mess, just as they always have, were not well represented.
A business that will move for one tax incentive will move again for a bigger one. Taking an even bigger view, moving companies from one state to another is a zero sum game for our country. If we don't add new jobs, we all lose. The engine of job growth is small business -- President Obama acknowledged that again yesterday in Ohio. I don't have the strength to tackle our nation's small business efforts (the SBA thinks a company with 500 employees is a small business, for crying out loud), but I think I have a chance to help Colorado.
That why I am asking my readers, friends, and clients to tell Governor Hickenlooper what you think Colorado should be doing to better support small to medium companies. The Bottom-Up plan includes a survey that will be closing soon. Please go to the survey now and participate in the process. Take advantage of the open-ended questions and the "other" blanks to tell the State what it needs to hear. We can add more jobs helping established small to medium Colorado companies than we ever will chasing big companies.
Last year I saw In the Heights at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. At the center of this musical, set in New York City's Washington Heights neighborhood, are three small businesses. The owner of one, a bodega -- a convenience store, has to decide whether he should leave and start a new business elsewhere, or stay and work to improve his business, and thus his neighborhood. Ultimately, he chooses to stay because, as he says, "I'm home."
So it is with Colorado's human-owned business.