Recently, the Atlantic Cities reported that Metro Denver is among the top ten most productive metro areas in the nation.
Using a metric from the Metro Productivity Index, which is based on data from the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis, the piece highlights a ratio that compares the level of economic output per person for metros to the gross domestic product per person for the nation as a whole.
According to the article written by urban studies theorist Richard Florida, "the metros with the highest levels of consistent productivity growth over the past decade are those with high-tech, knowledge-based economies or strong energy economies."
Metro Denver is fortunate to have both (in fact, these factors are part of the vision behind our brand of Energetic Bodies. Energetic Minds.); so I'm not surprised the region ranks so favorably.
While productivity at the national level has slowed, a look at strong metropolitan economies, including Metro Denver, show that Washington should keep an eye on metro regions to learn how to jumpstart economic growth in the nation.
With that in mind, I'd like to take a look at the lessons Washington can learn from Metro Denver, in particular, by focusing on the two reasons the article sites for a region's productivity.
- High-Tech, Knowledge-Based Economy: We've talked a lot about this, but Colorado has one of the nation's most highly educated populations, ranking third among the 50 states (behind Massachusetts and Maryland) 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. What Washington IS learning from our high-tech, knowledge-based economy: innovation was born to thrive here. Based on an economic analysis the region put forward to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) when it was in search of satellite offices earlier this year, the economic impact to the region is expected to exceed $400 million in the first five years of operation. The Denver satellite office, which was announced in July, will help with backlog at the main office in Virginia, allowing innovation, capital investment and new job creation to occur more rapidly.
- Strong Energy Economy: Colorado ranks seventh in the nation in overall energy production. The inter-relationship between fossil energy and cleantech provides unique growth opportunities for this industry, which employs 41,230 people at 3,120 companies. What Washington can learn from our energy economy: it's all about diversification. In the 1980s, our nation was hit hard because we were focused solely on oil and gas, but we've made a strategic effort to support all of our energy industries and it's paid off. In fact, Colorado has the second-highest renewable energy standard in the nation.
Given that productivity is the backbone of a healthy economy, it pleases me beyond no end to see that Metro Denver is one of those places that can help drive the future of U.S. growth.
Last week, USA Today ran a story on the top 10 cities for tech startups. Using data from the National Venture Capital Association, Denver/Boulder came in as number nine with $584.6 million invested in 85 companies throughout 2011.
Here's a quick look at why USA Today thinks our region is one of the nation's top places for tech entreprenuers:
"The Mile High City and nearby Boulder have been startup magnets for years, thanks to Internet household names such as Mapquest (acquired by AOL in 2000) and photo-sharing site Photobucket, the second-most-visited online photo site. Boulder-based incubator TechStars takes on 50 companies a year and has an $80 million fund for startups, while Foundry Group invests up to $225 million."
The article mirrors a recent Denver Business Journal piece which highlights how Lower Downtown Denver (LoDo) is slowly becoming a technology hub with 13 companies migrating to downtown in recent months.
Given this recent, timely news, we decided to speak with some of our very own tech stars, each of whom were recently featured in the 2012 Inc. 5000 list of America's Fastest Growing Companies, about why they think Metro Denver exces as a high-tech hub:
- ReadyTalk is a 150-employee company that creates web and audio conferencing services for businesses. While the entire executive team is originally from Colorado, Dan King, CEO, said they chose to locate in the LoDo neighborhood in order to draw from the region's wide talent pool.
"Colorado is an awesome place for tech companies," King said. "Denver is growing a critical mass of technology companies and simultaneously attracting a vibrant, young tech workforce."
- The CEO of SparkFun, Nathan Seidle, started his online retail company, which sells electronic project pieces such as resistors and LEDs, humidity sensors and LCD screens, while he was junior at the University of Colorado Boulder. COO, Trevor Zylstra, said it just makes sense to keep the SparkFun headquarters grounded in a community with a solid tech foundation.
"People in this area typically have easy access to new information and have an adventurous spirit, so they are willing and able to try new things and experiment," he said. "There are also plenty of opportunities to cross paths with people from different backgrounds and professions. Our good food, good music and good brews help provide the perfect atmosphere for conversation and collaboration."
We always knew our region was full of tech-savvy folks; we do after all have second-highest number of college graduates per capita in the U.S. in our state. It's just nice to see others taking notice as well!
About Tom Clark
Tom has over 30 years of economic development experience at the state, regional, and local levels, spanning from Illinois to Colorado. He is known both for his quips and his candor. Often quoted in the local and national press on Metro Denver’s economy, his iPhone is his most valued possession next to his Les Paul guitar. He is also famous for writing parody songs, maintaining an orderly office, and funding the office swear jar. Tom says that if wasn’t an economic developer, his dream would be to work in a chocolate factory. Learn more >>
About The Cone of Silence
Invented by Professor Cone from TV’s "Get Smart," the Cone of Silence was designed to protect the most secret of conversations by enshrouding its users within a transparent sound-proof shield. Unfortunately, from experience, we have also learned that it never works properly. This blog offers those outside our “Cone of Silence” a unique look at economic development in the region. Learn about the Cone of Silence >>