Fort Collins: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Fort Collins' economy has been described as well-balanced, with a good mix of manufacturing and service-related businesses. Local business leaders claim that the city's economy is insulated from some of the ups and downs in the regional and the national economies by the "highly sophisticated and rapidly advancing technological progress" of the city's industries. Fort Collins has a strong manufacturing base; it is home to such firms as Hewlett Packard, WaterPik, Woodward, In-Situ, and Anheuser-Busch. The city has been experiencing low unemployment rates and a steady increase in household incomes, increasing purchasing power that can only further stimulate the local economy. A variety of high-tech companies have relocated to Fort Collins because of the resources of Colorado State University and its research facilities. New housing construction has added to the city's economic growth.

Items and goods produced: pharmaceuticals, electronic components and accessories, aircraft and parts, scientific instruments, measuring and controlling instruments, radio and TV equipment, industrial chemicals, engines, turbines, communications equipment

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

The city of Fort Collins has established an economic development policy that allows the rebate of use taxes paid by qualifying firms on qualifying equipment. On a case-by-case basis, the county will consider negotiating financial incentives, giving up to a 50 percent credit towards a company's personal property tax liability for up to four years. In 2004, the community created the Fort Collins Technology Incubator, acquiring 6,500 square feet of office space and transforming the 7 year old Fort Collins' "Virtual Incubator" into an incubator with walls. The technology incubator is a cluster of programs designed to nurture startup businesses. Incubator companies receive discounted business services from top-notch community resources, advisory groups, Colorado State University resources, and strategic planning counseling as well as idea sharing amongst other entrepreneurs.

The Northern Colorado Economic Development Corporation supports existing employers and recruits new employers to the region. It assists local companies to grow and expand and, in partnership with Colorado State University, encourages technology transfer to nurture local start-up companies. Fort Collins can negotiate with new business facilities an incentive payment equal to not more than the amount of the increase in property tax liability over pre-enterprise zone levels; and a refund of local sales taxes on purchases of equipment, machinery, machine tools, or supplies used in the taxpayer's business in the Enterprise Zone.

State programs

Colorado's Enterprise Zone tax benefits offer incentives for private enterprise to expand and for new businesses to locate in economically distressed areas of the state. They include a three percent investment tax credit for equipment investment, a $500 job tax credit for hiring new employees in an enterprise zone, double job tax credits for agricultural processing, a $200 job tax credit for employer health insurance, research and development tax credits, credits for the rehabilitation of vacant buildings, and exemptions from state sales and use tax on the purchase of manufacturing and mining equipment.

Job training programs

The Colorado FIRST customized job training program assists employers in training new or current workers in permanent, non-seasonal jobs and custom designs job-specific training programs. FIRST provides financial assistance to eligible businesses for direct training costs including instructor wages, travel, and per diem allowances; development of curriculum and instruction materials; cost of essential training supplies, equipment and space; and training at the employer's location or at local community college or vocational schools. Employers who carry out a qualified job training program for their enterprise zone employees, or who participate in a school-to-work program with a local school, may be able to claim an income tax credit of 10 percent of their eligible training "investment." Front Range Community College and Colorado State University provide excellent employee training resources. Larimer County Employment and Training/Colorado Job Service offers comprehensive, coordinated employment and training services.

Development Projects

In 2004 In-Situ, Inc. a producer of environmental monitoring information and systems, chose Fort Collins as its headquarters and built a state-of-the-art office/manufacturing and multi-media training facility. In-Situ regularly introduces new water market innovations for patent and does business in more than 70 countries.

Economic Development Information: Northern Colorado Economic Development Corporation, 2725 Rocky Mountain Avenue #410, Loveland, CO 80538; telephone (970)667-0905; fax (970)669-4680; email

Commercial Shipping

Parcel service for Fort Collins is provided by Federal Express, Airport Express, Airborne, Burlington Air Express, Emery, United Parcel Service, Pony Express, and Purolator. Fort Collins has two-day rail freight access to the west coast or the east coast and has eight motor freight carriers. Many local industrial sites have rail freight spur service. The city is served by the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Fort Collins' labor force has been described as young, well-educated, and energetic. Studies have indicated that many of the graduates of Colorado State University stay in the city.

Fort Collins exhibits outstanding economic stability. In a 2002 report on the economic strength of U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSA), POLICOM Corporation ranked Fort Collins-Loveland as the eighth strongest economy in the nation. Economic strength is a combination of both the rate and consistency of growth, and the information is obtained by examining 25 years of data in 18 different categories in the economy.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Fort Collins-Loveland labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of non-agricultural labor force: 128,500

Number of workers employed in . . . construction and mining: 9,800

manufacturing: 14,700

trade, transportation and utilities: 21,800

information: 2,400

financial activities: 5,500

professional and business services: 14,200

educational and health services: 13,400

leisure and hospitality: 15,300

other services: 4,300

government: 27,000

Average hourly wage of production workers employed in manufacturing: $16.13

Unemployment rate: 5.0% (December 2004)

Fort Collins: Economy

Largest county employers Number of employees
Colorado State University 6,948
Poudre School District 3,732
Hewlett Packard 3,000
Poudre Valley Health System 2,814
Agilent Technologies 2,800
Thompson School District 2,000
City of Fort Collins 1,400
Larimer County 1,394
McKee Medical Center 950
Advanced Energy 800

Cost of Living

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Fort Collins metropolitan area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $213,900 (Greeley metro)

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 91.7 (Greeley metro) (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: 4.63%

State sales tax rate: 2.9%

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 3%

Property tax rate: The residential assessment rate for 2003-2004 is 7.96% of actual value based on market values as of June 30, 2002; reappraised every two years

Economic Information: Northern Colorado Economic Development Corporation, 2725 Rocky Mountain Avenue #410, Loveland, CO 80538; telephone (970)667-0905; fax (970)669-4680; email