What Sam Bailey enjoys most about Jefferson County is the community’s gusto.
“Jefferson County happens to be the place where the pioneering spirit still thrives and fosters an appetite to be engaged in the community,” he said.
Bailey, 27, joined the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation (Jeffco EDC) as president and CEO on Jan. 3. He brought with him five-and-a-half years of working experience in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade. As the senior manager of global business development, he oversaw and led the state’s efforts to recruit, retain and expand major domestic and international businesses.
Born and raised in downtown Chicago, Bailey’s interest in economics developed at an early age, watching his parents perform their jobs — a newspaper reporter and a commercial real estate developer.
“Curiosity and building things always stuck with me as a student,” Bailey said. “But what created even more interest was learning about how those collide at the intersection of the private sector and government.”
Bailey moved from Chicago to Colorado in 2007 to attend Regis University, where he earned a degree with a double major in economics and political science in 2011
His position with the Jeffco EDC includes a variety of responsibilities, Bailey said, which he plans on accomplishing by partnering with local economic development practitioners, communicating with elected officials on important issues and being a strong voice for the businesses in Jefferson County.
“More than anything, my role in the community is to serve as the economic development concierge for businesses,” he said. “If done well, Jefferson County will be recognized for its adaptability and focus on execution when it comes to business recruitment, retention and expansion opportunities.”
What does the Jeffco EDC do and why is it an asset to the community?
The Jeffco EDC leads the county’s economic development efforts to foster opportunities for its residents.
The centerpiece of the organization is that it is a convener of the private-sector, county and local governments, and businesses looking to advance Jefferson County. Jeffco EDC is primarily funded through the private-sector, with substantial support from the county commissioners to deliver economic development services on behalf of the county. Furthermore, we complement the efforts of local municipal economic development groups. This powerful partnership of private enterprise, the county and municipalities brings together a strong network of stakeholders committed to progressing Jefferson County as a leader in economic development.
Why is economic development in Jeffco exciting?
The county is home to some of Colorado’s largest employers, one of the most advanced workforces, a community focus on balance between lifestyle and commerce, and the capacity to compete at a higher level than it has in the past.
Even more importantly, the Board of Directors represents the passion and grit of Jefferson County, as it includes manufacturers, community leaders, civic-minded businesses and more. The Board of Directors is beating the drum of the business community, and the tone they set speaks to the partnership of public and private minds. For a community, that’s powerful and vitally important to achieving success.
What are some of the challenges Jeffco EDC faces?
As a county, we are seeking to find a balance between commercial development and open space. What we find people agree on, is that they want to have a thriving business community and the ability to enjoy outdoor recreation in the community. Working with municipalities, our challenge is identifying where our work starts and their work stops. To tackle these challenges, Jeffco EDC is leading an effort to develop economic development process agreements with each municipality so we support, not duplicate, efforts.
What’s an example of a successful Jeffco EDC program?
Jeffco EDC has been involved in a variety programs, mostly focused on celebrating existing companies.
One program in particular is Colorado Companies to Watch (COCTW), a private-public awards program focused on highlighting 50 high-growth, second stage companies each year. Over the past eight years, Jefferson County has been home to 47 COCTW winners. They embody the bold entrepreneur who has surpassed the survival stage and is on track to create jobs in our economy.
What is the Forward Jeffco Initiative?
The Forward Jeffco Initiative started in 2013 as a five-year campaign to support job creation through attracting new businesses, encourage expansion of existing Jeffco companies, stimulate capital investment, enhance entrepreneurship, ensure readiness of the county’s workforce and provide advocacy on important issues related to fostering a positive business climate. Coming into the last year of Forward Jeffco, we are on track to meet and exceed our goals based on the proactive work of the Jeffco EDC, its board of directors and economic development partners across the county.
Last year the former Jeffco EDC director stepped down abruptly. How has the recent restructuring affected the group?
The organization has the potential to develop substantial opportunities for Jefferson County and leverage the work of the existing staff to move its mission forward.
As the organization continues through changes, its focus is on delivering value and serving as the economic development concierge for the community. Changing an organization, let alone a county’s goals on economic development, is not easy. Jeffco EDC was founded in 1955, and is one of the oldest economic development organizations in the State of Colorado. Much like a private company, organizations need to reinvent themselves to stay relevant, serve existing and new clients and deliver timely value to its stakeholders.
What is your vision for future economic development in Jeffco?
My vision for economic development in Jeffco starts with a case-study approach. Traditional economic development efforts often lead with incentives. While we are a modest incentive state and county, I prefer to let our Jeffco businesses tell our story through their experiences. We are home to companies employing thousands of workers, conquering technological advances, changing industry landscapes and solving problems. My question is why? The why tells us our strengths, identifies our weaknesses and informs those considering Colorado why companies choose Jefferson County as their home.
Implementing this vision takes time and listening. As we begin to transition our efforts and approach to economic development, it begins with telling the story of companies here in the county.