Tom Clark and Nettie Moore
Last week, transportation officials officially opened the 12.1-mile, $707 million West light-rail line from downtown Denver to Golden.
The latest statistics from the Regional Transportation District estimated that tens of thousands of passengers rode the light rail on Saturday taking advantage of the new line and free rides offered by RTD.
The line, which is the first to be finished for the FasTracks regional transit program and is expected to carry some 20,000 riders a day, is big news for our region and the nation.
Consider these two facts:
- America's major metro area downtowns welcomed double-digit population growth in the decade ending 2010, more than double the rate of growth for their overall cities, according to a recent article in Forbes. With this significant population growth in our nation's cities, it's important that cities find a way to maintain sustainability.
- President Obama recently shared his plans to improve the nation's infrastructure using a combination of public and private investment.
Now consider how Metro Denver is approaching these two facts:
- Light Rail to Maintain Sustainability - Light rail is just one way cities can reduce pollution, sprawl, and congestion. Currently, 43 percent of our region's downtown commuters now take transit, a number that we expect to grow with the opening of the various FasTracks lines.
- Private Investment to Spur Growth - Since announcing Denver's light rail plans in 2004, RTD leaders have had to look at different financial models to help support the rising construction costs of developing a new transportation system during the recession. Our transportation leaders were smart in that they knew they had to look to the private sector to succeed. Based on this foresight, construction is currently under way on four additional FasTracks lines, which are all supported by private and public investment. The four lines, which include the East Line to Denver International Airport, as well as Denver's Union Station's redevelopment, are all expected to open in 2016.
Having light rail is a major selling point for our region. Denver's downtown, which was number one for relocating adults ages 24-35 year olds last year, as well as the surrounding cities on the lines have seen enormous growth thanks in part to the transit-oriented development happening throughout our region.
In fact, according to the Downtown Denver Partnership downtown Denver has had $3.6 billion worth of non-residential public and private investment in in the decade ending 2011, with over $1 billion in public and private development slated to come online this year and in 2014. And according to a recent Cities report, TOD development was a nice percentage of all regional development (9 percent of all residential, 11 percent of retail and 15 percent of office).
But it's not just future residents who are taking note of the growth in Metro Denver. I continuously receive calls from site selectors (those in charge of helping companies with relocations and expansions) who want updates on the various lines so that they can keep their clients updated on the latest news.
These calls are a refreshing reminder that just as our first rail line brought a wave of new businesses and residents to the West in the late 1800s, so too will these new light rail lines bring new opportunities to the Metro Denver.
Mines and CSU Make Colorado a Top State for Computer Science Education
Last week, Huffington Post reported that Colorado School of Mines in Golden and Colorado State University in Fort Collins rank as two of the world's top nine computer science schools.
Both Mines and CSU proved their strength in computer science during the 2013 Windward Code Wars, one of the top student code war competitions in the world. CSU had two teams make it to the finals, including the first place-winning team. Mines had an impressive turnout with nine participating teams, including one team that came in seventh.
Highlighted as 'hidden gems,' in this article, our Colorado schools were both praised to have a strong sense of community and students that love programming for the pure joy of programming. While many top schools can teach students computer science fundamentals, our schools have proven their advanced computer skills, as well as their ability to work together and building relationships in the process.
What does this mean for Colorado? With a strong population of innovative and community-driven minds emerging from this generation of graduates and job seekers, we will continue to have a strong tech workforce right here in our own backyard.
Colorado already has one of the nation's most highly educated populations, ranking third among the 50 states for percentage of residents with a bachelor's degree or higher. Our region is also attracting more high-tech companies and jobs than ever before. In 2012, Denver-Boulder was ranked as a top 10 city for tech startups by USA Today.
We can only expect big things from today's energetic minds, and we can't wait to see what they bring to Colorado's future in computer science.
Colorado aerospace organizations, companies, and educational institutions gathered at the state Capitol on Monday to celebrate Colorado Aerospace Day, which was officially recognized with a joint resolution passed by the House and Senate.
The resolution, while formally marking March 25 as Colorado Aerospace Day, is also an effort to raise the visibility of Colorado's impressive aerospace industry and recognize the contributions of Colorado's aerospace companies and organizations.
Here are five reasons you should celebrate Colorado Aerospace Day today and every day:
- Colorado has the second-largest space economy in the nation.
- In 2012, Colorado ranked first in the nation for its concentration of aerospace workers, with 24,990 private-sector jobs.
- Colorado has some of the nation's strongest research universities including the University of Colorado Boulder, which ranked first among U.S. public universities for NASA research money received in 2012.
- Colorado is home to more than 400 companies developing spacecraft, instrumentation, remote sensing, ground control and navigation services, and launch vehicles for NASA, other agencies, and commercial clients.
- Colorado is literally a mile closer to space, which means that companies here get a 5,280-foot head start on the competition.
The day-long event, co-hosted by the Colorado Space Business Roundtable, the Colorado Space Coalition, and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, drew participation from aerospace companies both--large and small--operating in the state.
"We want (the Colorado legislature) to really encourage the federal government to support space exploration again," said Joe Rice, director of government relations at Lockheed Martin Space Systems and a former state representative.
The resolution also calls on Colorado's General Assembly to encourage Washington, D.C. to support space activities and fund innovative work, especially in the efforts to build the United States' ability to send human explorers into space again.
With the 29th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs quickly approaching in April, Colorado will continue to showcase its strength in the industry as well as its diversity. The event, which is the premier gathering of the global space community, takes place April 8-11. The Colorado Space Coalition will be there in full force to promote Colorado's dynamic aerospace industry.
Head over to our Flickr account for pictures from Monday's event and view a highlights video on our YouTube channel.
Denver continues to dominate in small business rankings
Last week, Forbes.com reported that Denver was among the top 10 cities for women entrepreneurs. Using data from NerdWallet, an online financial resource, Denver is described as a highly educated city with plenty of business, in which 30 percent of its businesses are owned by women.
In the article, reporter Meghan Casserly takes issue with Denver's number nine ranking writing how "Denver is surprisingly far down the list."
Casserly adds, "Colorado has consistently maintained high rankings for venture capital as a percent of state GDP, public offerings, small biz innovation grants, and entrepreneurial activity over the past five years. It currently sits at No. 5 on the Forbes rankings of best cities for business and at No. 8 on our best cities for female founders. Revenues at women-led firms topped $15 million last year alone."
We couldn't agree more with Casserly that we should be up higher on the list.
Case in point - just this month, The Business Journals ranked Metro Denver third of 102 U.S. markets for entrepreneurial activity. This is a big jump from three years ago, when Denver wasn't even featured in the top 10 for most small-business rankings.
In those three years, the creation of new small-business incubators, startup assistance programs, and streamlined efforts to speed local government permits and licensing have taken hold in the metro region.
Take a look at a few more reasons Colorado is great for startups:
- In July of 2012, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that Denver would be one of four locations for its new satellite offices. Since Colorado ranks among the top states for entrepreneurial activity, the new satellite patent office in our region will make it very efficient for our inventors and technology companies to develop their intellectual property here and attract more investors as well.
- Colorado has one of the nation's most highly educated populations, ranking third among the 50 states for percentage of residents with a bachelor's degree or higher. Our region is attracting more high-tech companies and jobs than ever before and we're home to 24 federal laboratories
- In 2012, Boulder and Denver were ranked together by USA Today's top 10 cities for tech startups, thanks to Internet household names such as Mapquest and Photobucket, as well as fast-growing companies such as ReadyTalk and SparkFun.
- Through challenging economic times, Colorado has maintained top-five rankings for venture capital as a percent of state GDP, initial public offerings, Small Business Innovation Research Grants, and entrepreneurial activity in 2011.
- Colorado also ranked sixth in number of new companies per 1,000 employees (U.S. Census Bureau; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011)
With these reasons and many more, it looks like Metro Denver isn't pulling up on the reigns any time soon for moving up in national rankings for startups and entrepreneurial activity.
At this year's Ninth Annual Meeting Luncheon we celebrated a decade of Metro Denver's most significant economic development accomplishments.
Click on the infographic below to see our major successes from the past 10 years.
Just a few of our successes include creating 122,000 net new jobs, providing critical funding to protect or enhance the state's business climate in tax reform initiatives, landing blockbuster economic development expansions and relocations such as United Launch Alliance, Arrow Electronics, DaVita, Charles Schwab, and Vestas, and securing international flights to Japan, Iceland, and Mexico City.
It's been a great 10 years - here's to the next decade!
Do you remember the plane flying an 80-foot banner proclaiming COLovesCA in 2009 or 50 Colorado Cupids walking the streets of L.A. handing out chocolates in 2010?
It's been five years since Colorado first declared its love for California with a marketing campaign targeting California companies in expansion mode.
And since that campaign, we've seen California companies take our message about growing and expanding in Colorado to heart. Just a few of the most recent expansions include:
- DaVita - The Fortune 500 provider of kidney dialysis services announced its headquarters move from California to Colorado in 2009. In 2012, the company opened its new world headquarters building in downtown Denver in addition to a research center employing 58 executive and medical professionals at the St. Anthony Central Hospital campus in Lakewood and a guest services contact center with 100 staff in Centennial.
- Charles Schwab - In January, Charles Schwab announced plans to relocate the majority of its 2,000 employees based throughout Metro Denver and add 480 employees by 2017 at a consolidated $230 million campus in Lone Tree.
- VISA Inc. - The company will further expand its presence in the region by adding more than 400 new jobs over the next five years at its existing Global Technology Center in Douglas County.
- Redwood Trust - The investment firm recently announced that it would create 550 jobs in the next five years at a new financial services operations center in Douglas County.
For each of these companies, Colorado's stable and thriving business climate, lower taxes, overall cost of living, highly educated workforce, and outstanding quality of life fit their expansion needs.
Given news that many states including Texas, Nevada, and Kansas are aggressively targeting California companies, Colorado wanted to take Valentine's Day to remind California of its friendly approach to working with the state.
Below is a poem we hope does just that:
Shall I compare thee to a Colorado day?
Thou art just as lovely, only different.
Rough waves do shake your sandy shores and bays,
And summer never leaves your Golden State.
But in both states our businesses do thrive,
And often very highly do they rank.
And for a stronger bond we always strive,
So that your investments will go to bank.
But our eternal link shall never fade,
Nor lose sight of incentives we oweth,
Nor innovation lag, nor jobs, nor trade,
Our bond shall help economy groweth.
So long as all need jobs and biz can grow,
Long lives CA giving life to CO.
Feel free to share the love by using the hashtag #COLovesCA.
If you want to revisit the past two campaigns, check out photos and video from 2009 and photos and video 2010.
Across the globe, patents are a measure of innovation. And luckily for our metro region, two of our cities can claim that their residents are among the most inventive in the nation.
A report released today by the Brookings Institution analyzes patents issued between 1980 and 2012 and ranks the nation's roughly 360 metropolitan areas on patenting levels and growth.
What it found is that people living in 20 metro areas, or 34 percent of the U.S. population, are responsible for 63 percent of the nation's patents.
And according to the report, Boulder is in the top five metro areas with the highest number of patents per capita while Denver is number 29.
This news comes at perfect timing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) planning to open one of its new satellite offices in Denver this year.
The report highlights research universities, a scientifically-educated workforce, and collaboration as key factors in driving innovation within metropolitan areas.
Our metro region is home to all three:
- Research universities: Colorado is home to three internationally recognized research universities including Colorado School of Mines, University of Colorado, Boulder, and Colorado State University. Colorado is also home to 24 federal laboratories, with one of the highest concentrations of federally funded science and research centers in the nation.
- Scientifically educated workforce: Colorado ranks eighth in the nation in science and engineering doctorate holders as a percent of the workforce, according to the National Science Foundation. In addition, more than 40 percent of our residents have a bachelor's degree or better, the third highest in the nation.
- Collaboration: Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper created the Colorado Innovation Network (COIN) in 2011 to promote collaboration among Colorado's private, public and academic organizations. The metro region also is nationally known for its regional take on economic development and recently celebrated 25 years of working across cities and county lines to bring business to Metro Denver.
Whether it's having a strong business climate, one of the nation's most productive workforces, or one of the most innovative workforces in the nation, our region consistently ranks as having among the nation's strongest economies.
Given the recent news that our region will achieve full economic recovery in 2013, I expect that you'll continue to see the Denver region in the nation's top rankings throughout this year.
The latest edition of Foreign Direct Investment (fDi) Magazine portrays Denver as having a new identity; one that's been forged thanks to the region's strategic planning surrounding our region's infrastructure and downtown developments.
It's an accurate portrayal of the efforts our region has initiated to expand our competitiveness on the global stage. So what did we do?
- We changed our approach to getting business: We've gone from intense competition among our local governments in the 70s to now being the national model for how regionalism works. In fact, recent announcements from VISA, Fidelity and Redwood Trust are all examples of how regionalism can help a community grow.
- We revitalized our downtown: Before it was the bustling hub that it is today, our downtown was dilapidated and worn down. Thanks to the Coors Field and convention center investments, the vibe in our downtown has changed. Over the past decade, there has been $3.6 billion worth of non-residential public and private investment in downtown bringing with it a growing number of young adults and businesses who want to live and work in the area.
- We diversified our industry base: In the 80s, Denver was known as an oil town. Since the oil boom bust, we have been extremely strategic in diversifying our clusters and finding innovation in our current ones. The fDi article highlights the latest example: a six percent annual growth in our cleantech cluster in 2012 thanks in part to major investments from Vestas Wind Systems and Siemens.
As I read this article, I kept thinking of the famous quote by Michael Porter, a Harvard Business professor who is a leading authority on the competiveness of regions and counties, which says, "Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity."
Our approach to economic development and growth won't just stop with where we are now, but will continue to evolve. Just think of how we're already innovating: building one of the largest light-rail systems in the U.S., which will connect downtown to Denver International Airport, revitalizing Denver Union Station with $1 billion+ in investment and securing spaceport designation at Front Range Airport.
With all of these developments on the horizon, I look forward to seeing the shape the "new Denver" has in 20 more years.
The city's streets are jammed with traffic. Trucks -- carrying non-essential freight into the center city -- compete with autos and motorcycles for asphalt. The city's river has floating debris.
I waited 90 minutes to clear Customs. I was lucky; my fellow passengers sitting in the back of our aircraft waited almost three hours. With over 300 people in line, we saw all but one Customs officer leave their posts for a fifteen minute, mandatory break. My unfortunate trailing companions watched the officers take a second break - another 15 minutes.
Armed security people accompanied us. While murder rates have dropped to levels equal to the entire country, robbery and theft stubbornly refuse to decline.
It's São Paulo -- much like the one I first saw in 1980: crowded, tough, and contradictory.
Except...back then a military dictatorship governed, more interested in jailing dissidents than common criminals. The "Brazil Miracle" of the 1960s and 1970s was over. By the time I visited, Brazil was in a massive inflationary cycle that reached 428 percent in the 1980s and 1,400 percent from 1990-94.
Today things have changed dramatically. Tough fiscal reforms in the late 1990s resulted in a country with an enviable unemployment rate of 6 percent. And most importantly, Brazil and its largest metro, São Paulo, are on track to the stratosphere of global competitors.
The City and the State of São Paulo are driving eye-popping infrastructure plans. Ring railroads and highways will move freight traffic out of the downtown and to its ports. "Social housing" projects are cropping up closer to jobs, reducing the time it takes for lower paid workers to get to work.
Its transit system carries 7.5 million passengers a day. Compare this to "transit-rich" Chicago that carries 1.9 million passengers a day.
Older manufacturing areas are under the wrecking ball, being replaced by exciting urban designs for all income groups. New central business districts (São Paulo now has three) are being connected by transit, roads, and even tunnels. The phrase "public/private partnerships" is on the lips of every elected official and city planner we met. The center city is back on the mend, following much of the same evolution of many American cities.
So why am I in São Paulo? Metro Denver is part of the Global Cities Initiative (GCI), sponsored by the Brookings Institute and JP Morgan Chase, a five year effort to link the markets of the world to one another, in this case, Denver and São Paulo. More importantly, GCI is linking the corporate, business, and civic leaders of these massive economic engines for future trade, learning and cooperation. Metropolitan regions are the global engines of economic growth. Today 60 percent of the world's population lives in urban areas. Within the next three decades that number will approach 80 percent. In Colorado our urban areas produce 83 percent of the state's GDP, while housing about 80 percent of the state's population.
As part of the world's metropolitan regional family, all of us are engaged in the early stages of a massive learning process. The questions are daunting. The answers are even tougher. How do we capture and benefit from superior economic growth that regions provide while better managing the historical challenges posed by denser urban environments - crime, population growth, sanitation, transportation, the poor, and environmental quality?
Why is Metro Denver involved? In 1986 CU-Denver professor Jon Prosser posited that Metro Denver was uniquely situated in North America to become a global economic hub. Denver International Airport is 6,000 miles from London, Tokyo, and São Paulo. In 1986 this was the average distance a Boeing 747 could fly. For Metro Denver it meant global connectivity and an opportunity to become a "world city" as we boldly proclaimed back then.
We began our quest for nonstop service to Europe and Japan in 1986. Today we have nonstop service to London and Frankfurt. This past year's addition of Icelandair's direct service from Denver to Reykjavik with connections to 22 European destinations including Paris and Oslo, rounded out our near-term goals for European service.
In 2012 our efforts for a nonstop flight to Tokyo and markets beyond culminated with United Airlines' decision to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner nonstop to Tokyo beginning in March 2013.
So here we are - the last leg of our triangulated global position. With democracy restored in 1985 and a lost decade of the 1990s behind them, Brazilians are full throttle into the future. They have much ground to gain including shrinking a bloated government, rationalizing their land use and infrastructure planning, training an unskilled workforce, and funding an increasing debt load for its ambitious development plans. But Brazil is working hard, and progress is everywhere. And they have a plan, a good plan.
Our countries have much in common. Both are rich in resources with similar histories. Once ruled by a foreign power, the United States had its own revolutions. We have seen waves of immigrants and shared the experience of slavery and indigenous peoples. Our citizens are diverse, coming from other countries and cultures. Standing in the food court of a center city mall I could have easily been at the Cherry Creek Mall. Brazilians look much like us - Europeans, Asian, Blacks, Latinos. There was only one difference: I was "lost in translation." I can't speak a word of Portuguese. My fellow diners spoke little English.
Sao Paulo is the epicenter of Brazil's new economic miracle. With a population of 22 million it is the largest metro in Brazil. Its GDP is two and one half times greater than its nearest competitor - Rio de Janeiro. It ranks 12th in economic performance among the 300 largest global metros. Its economy is among the most diverse in Brazil, anchored by manufacturing, distribution, business services, and government.
As Bruce Katz of Brookings said simply, "We have to be here."
Any questions why?
Last week, Volaris launched nonstop service from Denver International Airport (DIA) to Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City.
The new route is the third international flight DIA has announced this year. In May, Icelandair started flying from Denver to Reykjavik and United announced that it will begin a daily direct flight from Denver to Tokyo in March 2013.
According to the monthly traffic statistics released by DIA, international passenger traffic was up .6 percent year to date September 2012 compared to the same time last year.
With these three latest announcements, we anticipate that these numbers will continue to grow making DIA one of the top international airports in the United States.
While the immediate benefit of the Volaris flight is tourism, these new flights will not only help us attract international travelers, but will also help us attract new companies to the Metro Denver region.
Case in point, Arrow Electronics' headquarters move to the region last year was seen as boosting efforts by DIA and the city to attract nonstop flights to Asia, because 18 percent of the company's revenue in 2011 came from Asia.
In a recent USA Today article about airports and airlines catering to international travel, Mayor Hancock said that the new service to Tokyo means that the region now "is able to say we have a nonstop flight to the largest economy in the world, and our goal is to attract new companies that will relocate to Denver."
Given that Mexico is Colorado's second-largest trading partner with $755 million in export value, we look forward to the growth this new service will bring to our region, particularly for our tourism, energy and logistics industries.