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Pushing beyond the pandemic: Advance Longmont summit will focus on 'Paving a Path to a Bright Future'

Exploring the differences and the similarities among industry impacts in the time of COVID, and looking beyond them in the coming year will come front and center this week at the fifth annual summit. 
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It’s hard to find a business that hasn’t been touched by the coronavirus pandemic, but not all businesses have been impacted in the same way. 

Grocery and liquor store sales have boomed while traffic at restaurants and breweries has slowed to a trickle under tight capacity restrictions. Manufacturers have ramped up operations to meet increased demand, while personal service businesses and gyms have been squeezed.

Patty Silverstein calls it the “great divide,” and tracking it will be the theme of her regional economic forecast Thursday on Day One of the 2021 Advance Longmont Economic Summit.

“This is something we are all experiencing but experiencing very differently,” said Silverstein, president and chief economist at Development Research Partners who has presented her forecast annually since the Longmont Economic Development Partnership event began five years ago. 

Exploring those differences and the similarities among industry impacts in the time of COVID, and looking beyond them in the coming year will come front and center this week at the summit titled “Paving a Path to a Bright Future.” 

Silverstein said COVID has posed challenges to forecasting for the year ahead, but she still looks forward to sharing “what our economic situation is and some thoughts on where we’re going, which industries will be performing better in the future, how long it is going to take us to recover all of those jobs that have been lost. … What it’s going to take to move us forward.

“I’m an economist. I feel like we, as a whole community, as a whole Denver-metro region, the better perspective our businesses have, our workers have on what’s happening, they can better manage their expectations and know how to plan for future business growth or future career growth,” she said. “The more information we share about that, the better we do as a community.”

In addition to Silverstein’s outlook, the two-day event, being held virtually for the first time, will include a number of panel discussions focused on specific industries and will close with a keynote highlighting how kindness and commerce intersect. 

“I think the content we are providing this year will be of great value to our investors and members of the community at large to get a realistic but optimistic understanding of what the future holds for Longmont in a post-pandemic world,” Jessica Erickson, president and CEO of the Longmont Economic Development Partnership, said in an email. “Since we started hosting this event, we have been really celebrating a booming economy with no signs of slow down. The pandemic and the resulting economic recession obviously change that message and that tone. And while we don't want to make light of or disregard the real pain that people and businesses are experiencing as a result, our theme is ‘Paving a Path to a Bright Future’ and we hope the content presented will provide some optimism for Longmont's recovery.” 

Eric Wallace, chairman of the LEDP board and president and co-founder of Left Hand Brewing, said he is particularly excited about the Advance Longmont 2.0 focus area and target industry panel discussions that will feature a “bunch of different people sharing ideas, discoveries … tidbits for everybody” and will bring a wide range of business people together to share in the “solidarity of knowing that every business has its challenges.”

Advance Longmont 2.0 is the reboot of the citywide economic development strategy approved by city council in November 2019 that “champions growth, prosperity and inclusion.” 

Wallace said the panels will include some “cool industries” — marketing, aerospace, biopharma and more — who are all local, are all success stories. 

“It all ties back to the priorities in the Advance Longmont 2.0 plan,” he said. “It sounds like gobbledy gook, but it’s a really cool initiative to try and align business and political and goverment and other parnters to get on the same page and move things forward and take advantage of the huge potential we’ve got here in Longmont.”

LEDP’s Erickson said the two panels on Day Two are all about storytelling — “the stories of industry and civic leaders who are actively engaged in paving a path to a brighter future for Longmont. With both panels, our hope is that attendees will walk away with a sense of optimism that there are talented and brilliant leaders of both the public and private sectors that are participating not only individually, but also collectively.

“ … I also hope many attendees will walk away with an understanding of how they, too, can contribute to the collective goals and priorities of Advance Longmont 2.0.”

The event will wrap up on Friday with a keynote address from Iffie Jennings, founder of The Kindness Network.

Jennings, whose “day job” is community and government affairs area manager for Xcel Energy, said she started The Kindness Network last year in response to the negativity and mean spiritedness she saw surrounding many issues, primarily the presidential election. As the name implies, she wanted to create a space to foster kindness. 

She views kindness as currency that can be deposited to net greater rewards for all. 

“If we are all doing our part in being kind to each other, imagine what we can accomplish together,” she said. “... The two tools we have to promote kindness are the power of our words and everyday things. We have a choice to deposit kindness or withdraw it.”

A smile, a friendly word can make a difference, she said, adding that kindness was a value with which she grew up and has restored her through difficult times.

Erickson said, “It is no secret that our country and community have become more polarized than ever around issues of the pandemic, politics and social justice. Many have gotten in the habit of demonizing those with whom they disagree, even if those with whom they disagree are their neighbors, colleagues and friends.

“At the same time Longmont EDP through Advance Longmont 2.0 is asking our community to come together in unprecedented ways to do the work of building and maintaining a vibrant and inclusive economy, and helping Longmont become the best version of itself by achieving its full potential for growth, prosperity, and inclusion. We recognize, and hope that Iffie's message at the summit will help others recognize, that before we can do any of that we must first find our way back to being kind to each other.”

Wallace said the idea of kindness and cooperative spirit particularly resonates with him and illustrates there is more to success than profit margins. 

“If your sole purpose in business is to maximize profits … you may well be leaving a path of destruction,” he said. “How do you contribute to fixing things that need to be fixed? To me that’s the purpose of business. We at Left Hand are very focused on that. … I’m not passionate about money. I’m passionate about the impact we can have.”

Erickson said she believes the move to the virtual format might magnify the impact of the summit itself. 

“The greatest opportunity of an all-virtual event is the ability to make it more accessible to more people. We have attendees registered from across Colorado and the U.S., and thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, we are able to offer free registration to individuals and businesses hardest hit by the pandemic and resulting public health mandates.”

The cost to attend the summit is $25 and $20 for LEDP members. Registration is required by Wednesday. For more information or to register, click here. Anyone interested in attending the event, but unable to pay the ticket cost can sign up here.