Friday, December 19, 2008

Declining Auto Travel and Promoting Pedestrian Lifestyles

Although we have had a reprieve in high gas prices, the Brookings Institution makes a compelling case that people are starting to make permanent lifestyle changes that are leading them to drive fewer miles. See ,The Road…Less Traveled: An Analysis of Vehicle Miles Traveled Trends in the U.S. This figure was particularly striking, showing the correlation between rising gas prices and a drop in vehicle miles traveled per capita (VMTPC).

According to the report, Metro Denver has
the 25th highest vehicle miles traveled per capita -6409 - of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. The city with the highest number was Jackson, MS with 8182 VMTPC and the city with the lowest number was, not surprisingly, New York with 3657.

The video below by Robert Puentes at Brookings explains the public policy implications of driving less. Among other ideas, Puentes thinks the Obama transportation stimulus package should be careful not to build highways to nowhere and instead make sure to fund important public transportation projects.

The decrease in VMTPC opens up an opportunity for promoting healthy, pedestrian friendly lifestyles. Denver urban enthusiast Ken Schroeppel, recently posted a blog entry on talking about the economic, community building, public health and transportation importance of encouraging pedestrian transit in downtown Denver with links to the Downtown Denver Partnership's Leadership Program's report "
Putting Our Best Foot Forward: Enhancing Downtown Denver's Pedestrian Environment."

Is it possible that multiple trends are converging - federal stimulus investment in transportation infrastructure, the prospect of higher energy prices, traffic congestion, a desire to reduce carbon generation, a change in aesthetic tastes favoring an urban lifestyle - which will lead to major changes in the built environment and people's lifestyles? Lets hope so.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Agglomeration Economies Help the Cluster Spread

Once an industry, like wind power, gets established in a given geographic area, up and downstream participants get drawn into the area by the positive externalities of being located near suppliers, competitors, workers and related service providers. This is clearly starting to happen in Colorado for various sub sectors in the alternative energy ecosystem.

This from The Denver Post.

"WINDSOR — Aerospace products maker Hexcel Corp. plans to open a plant in Windsor next year.

The company supplies Vestas Wind Systems with composite materials that are used to make wind turbines. Hexcel will open its plant near Vestas' blade-making plant in Windsor, about 50 miles north of Denver.

Construction of Hexcel's plant is expected to begin this month and the plant should open late next year.

Hexcel chairman and CEO Dave Berges says demand for wind turbines is expected to grow now that 30 states have pushed utilities to use more renewable energy.

The Stamford-Conn.-based company hasn't announced any details about how many new jobs the plant will bring."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The FasTracks I-225 Intra-Suburban Beltway Corridor

The issues surrounding the proposed Purple Line on the Washington D.C. subway system are very relevant for FasTracks. See below for an extended excerpt from an article titled "Greening the Suburbs" from The New Republic's environmental blog, The Vine.

The Purple Line in Maryland would be the first intra-suburban rail transit line in the D.C. system because it would not carry people from the suburbs to the city center in a hub-spoke model but instead would follow the beltway around the city carrying people between the suburbs. The purple line provides connectivity between the spoke lines near the perimeter of the system allowing for transfers to occur away from the city center.

In the FasTracks system, the analogous line is the I-225 Corridor which will connect the Southeast and East Corridors together and make it easier for Southeast riders to travel to DIA as well as serving new destinations in Aurora. This line is an intra-suburban beltway line like the purple line in D.C.

Some of the proposed solutions to the FasTracks budget deficit involve shortening the I-225 Corridor including not completing loop and terminating the line before the connection to the East Corridor at the Peoria/Smith Station. As I have said in previous posts, I believe any cuts to the FasTracks system including the I-225 line would be a huge mistake.

Excerpt from "Greening the Suburbs:"

"The logic undergirding the Purple Line is that D.C.'s Metro, like most old-school subways, is a hub-and-spoke model, built for an era when people lived in the suburbs and commuted downtown for work. Nowadays, though, most traffic flows from suburb to suburb—hence the need to interlink Montgomery County and Prince George's County. Most area residents favor some sort of connecting line; the bickering is over the details. Marc Elrich, a Montgomery County councilman, explained that he was agonizing about whether Maryland should spend $1.2 billion on a fixed light-rail system projected to transport 64,000 people per day, or spend just $600 million on a bus rapid transit (BRT) system with a dedicated lane, projected to transport 58,000, and use the savings for other worthwhile initiatives.

Chris Leinberger, a Brookings expert on development who comes at things from a real-estate perspective, countered that Elrich was approaching this too narrowly. Leinberger argued that transportation tends to drive development, and that transit projects should be viewed as a means of creating new value in a metro area. In that vein, he argued that middle-class people like trains well enough, but often refuse to ride buses, which carry the stigma of poverty; as a result, developers are much more likely to invest around rail stations than bus stops. (This may not be an ironclad law, but, alas, the United States has relatively few examples of successful BRT, a la the famous system in Curitiba, Brazil).

What's more, Leinberger assured the audience, developers will flutter to new light-rail stops in droves, because there's colossal pent-up demand in this country for transit-oriented development. By his count, some 30 to 50 percent of residents in U.S. metropolitan areas want to live in a walkable urban environment—a trend fueled by the growing number of single and childless couples, who will constitute 88 percent of household growth through 2040. Trouble is, he estimates there are currently only enough walkable neighborhoods to satisfy about 5 to 10 percent of metro residents, which is why rents in transit-accessible areas are so exorbitant. (Incidentally, the boom in childless households is one reason why development in D.C. could start to expand beyond Montgomery County and toward the northeastern suburbs, which have long been hampered by relatively inferior schools.)

Of course, to fix all this, new rail lines alone won't suffice. The towns around the proposed stops will have to revamp their zoning codes to allow high-density development near train stations—a suggestion that's typically greeted by angry, pitchfork-wielding mobs. (Ryan Avent recently dredged up a perfect example.) Now, since these changes in land use can both reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and bring down the cost of housing, Leinberger argued that environmentalists and social-justice activists should be at the forefront here. "Instead," he said, "you've just been leaving it up to developers—and no one seems to trust us!" Not that developers will ever be irrelevant: One interesting point Leinberger made was that if transit really does create the sort of value he expects, then real-estate developers should be more willing to pitch in and help finance these projects."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Governor Ritter on The News Hour

"Think in a state like Colorado, it's got 5 million people, but we have, again, 100-plus projects that we could have shovels in the ground in 90 days. And if you infuse our economy with, let's say, $500 million worth of transportation projects in 30 to 180 days, that puts people to work in a sector that has suffered.

And think about that nationwide. Gov. Schwarzenegger today said there are $136 billion worth of highway projects that are on the shelf that we could immediately change around, right, we could put shovels in the ground in 90 to 120 days.

Add to that clean-energy jobs. Think about wind farms and solar farms. The manufacturing end of that, you can create jobs on the manufacturing end of that in a whole new industry by investing in that industry and by really doing things with the stimulus package that don't cost money, other than through tax credit and ways to incentivize people to get into the industry."

Governor Bill Ritter on The News Hour, December 2, 2008. Click here for the full transcript.

I keep wondering if a combination of the recent sharp declines in commodities prices and the prospect of incremental infrastructure funds from an Obama Administration will end up solving the FasTracks budget shortfall? Its probably a long shot but one can hope.

Image from

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Progress Report on Colorado Officials' Asia Trip

The Rocky Mountain News had an interesting wrap up of Governor Ritter and other Colorado officials' trip to Asia.


The delegation to Asia said it made progress on several fronts, though no major business deals were signed during the trip. Some highlights:

* Colorado State University signed four agreements to collaborate with research institutions in China and Japan.

* Colorado promoted its renewable energy, tourism and biosciences industry.

* All Nippon Airways said Denver is in the running for a nonstop flight to Tokyo, with service starting as early as 2010."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Happy 150th Denver

Both The Rocky and The Post have excellent special sections commemorating the 150th anniversary of the City of Denver. Happy Birthday Denver.

ConocoPhillips Delay

Given the state of the economy and the drop in fuel prices, its not surprising that ConocoPhillips has pushed out the opening of its Louisville campus and scaled back some of its alternative energy investment plans. Lets hope this is only a temporary delay and not a permanent change in strategy. Even a short-term delay will have negative effects on the local economy and hurt the chances of some of the proposed nearby hotel and office developments.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

United to Renew Denver to London Daily Flight

Thankfully, not all of the news out of DIA these days is about turbulence and retrenchment. United Airlines is planning to restart the Denver to London flight next spring.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

NREL Expansion Plans

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a key component of the Denver region's green energy cluster, plans to grow its operations in Golden substantially as detailed in The Rocky Mountain News.

NREL Director, Dan Arvizu recently gave a presentation to congressional staffers on the role of the lab and its future plans which includes an Aerial view of what the NREL Golden campus would look like when it is fully built out. Go here to view the presentation.

Photo above is a 2007 aerial view of NREL campus. Courtesy of DOE/NREL, Credit - Patrick Corkery.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Governor Ritter Headed to Asia

Governor Ritter is headed to China and Japan to help promote Colorado as a renewable energy and bioscience hub and to lobby All Nippon Airways for a direct flight between Tokyo and Denver. Increasing Colorado's global ties is a worthy endeavor, which could lead to long-term economic benefits, even though its probably an uphill battle in the short term given today's economic environment.

This trip has been well covered by the two major Denver daily papers.

According to the November 10, Denver Post

"Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter will lead a 40-person delegation to Japan and China departing Saturday to promote direct Tokyo-Denver flights and other economic ties.

Joining Ritter on the 10-day trip will be officials from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Colorado State University."

See the Rocky Mountain News from November 11.

"Gov. Bill Ritter will lead a trade mission bound for Japan and China this weekend in hopes of securing a daily nonstop flight between Tokyo and Denver and to promote Colorado as a renewable energy and biosciences research hub.

The mission follows a handful of trips in recent months by economic development and tourism officials attempting to increase Colorado's visibility in Asia - and the state's chances of being chosen by All Nippon Airways for a direct flight from Tokyo."

An earlier blog entry describes the "Ascent to Asia" campaign to achieve a non-stop flight from Denver to Asia.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Summary of Possible Obama Energy Plans

The R-Squared Energy Blog provides an interesting high level summary of possible Obama energy plans. These plans could have a big impact on the Denver region.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What Will the Obama Administration Mean for Colorado?

After the historic presidential election yesterday, I got to wondering how an Obama Administration will impact economic development in Colorado. Given the central role that Colorado's electoral votes played in last night's Obama victory coalition and the fact that Colorado is likely to remain a battleground state in future elections, the state is well poised to benefit from the incoming administration. Some of the intriguing questions which popped into my mind include:

  • Will any Colorado political figures - Pena, Ritter, etc - play prominent roles in the Obama administration?
  • How much will Colorado benefit from Obama's plans to invest $15 billion a year in alternative energy development?
  • Will a new Obama stimulus package include the infrastructure investments he has hinted at? How much will flow to Colorado? Could some of the FasTracks deficits be ameliorated by new federal infrastructure funds?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Short Term Turbulence for DIA

Happy Halloween. It has been a truly ghoulish month for the economy.

(photo provided courtesy of Denver International Airport)

One of the central themes of this blog is that Denver International Airport (DIA) serves as a powerful economic engine for the Denver Region and Colorado. However, as jet fuel costs have increased, airlines have scaled back their flights and the U.S. macro economy declined, it has been a tough stretch for DIA and other airports around the country.

1) Frontier entered bankruptcy and reduced its flight schedule.

2) DIA's international ambitions have been curtailed, at least temporarily, as Lufthansa has ended its daily non-stop flight between Munich and Denver and United ends its daily non-stop service between Denver and London. British Airways will continue to fly the Denver to London route and Lufthansa will provide daily non-stop service between Denver and Frankfurt.

3) DIA has put its plans to expand Concourse C on hold in anticipation of declining flights and passengers as airlines cut back their routes. Additionally, the construction of an airport hotel will likely be delayed and/or scaled back.

Despite these developments, there are still reasons to be sanguine about the airport's prospects. First, DIA has achieved record monthly air volumes in 2008 including breaking the 5 million passengers per month threshold for the first time ever in July. Southwest continues to expand its flights at and destinations served from DIA. Also, to date, the airport has not lost any major hub carriers unlike some other airports around the country. Recently DIA's bond's have been given strong ratings indicating the airport is financially well positioned to weather the current turbulence.

In the long term, as the broader U.S. economy improves, I believe DIA will continue to be a powerful economic growth driver for the region and the airport will resume its upward financial and operational trajectory.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Venture Capital & Hotel Development Funds Driven by Green Energy in Colorado

The impact of the credit crunch and the likely recession is slowing down capital flows, job creation, real estate development and many other positive economic development indicators in the Denver Region and around the U.S. However, among the gloom, I have noticed two related positive trends, recently reported in the Boulder Daily Camera which link back to the emerging green energy cluster in Metro Denver.

First, there appears to be a wave of hotel development forming which will hit the U.S. 36 Corridor in Broomfield sparked by the ConocoPhillips plans for the former Storage Tech site. Despite the fact that the hotel business is one of the most cyclical sectors of the real estate market which tracks very closely with the macro economy, there are as many as eight different hotel projects in various stages of planning in this area. These plans are clearly driven by the large number of business travelers who are expected to come to the Interlocken area as part of the ConocoPhillips international training and alternative energy research facilities.

Second, despite a national downturn in venture capital deals, compared to the third quarter of last year, Colorado either held steady or increased its flow of funds according to two reports cited in the Camera. This was due to investments in alternative energy companies such as AVA Solar Inc. with operations in the state.

A View of the Rockies
believes the development of renewable energy will change the U.S. economy as profoundly as the emergence of the Internet or the railroad network did in the previous times. It won't be an easy transition and its hard to predict when critical mass will be reached and the changes will ramp up to full effect. However, when the green energy revolution does come, it will dramatically boost the economic wealth and power of the cities and regions that play host to this sector.

In the immediate term, the U.S. economy appears to be headed for lean economic times with contractions occurring in many sectors of the economy. However, the Denver Region can outperform the U.S. as a whole if it can continue to build an alternative energy economy. In the longer term, the development of this sector holds transformative possibilities for Colorado.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Rebchook Reprints Marilee Utter

John Rebchoock's October 1 Rocky column is an article by Marilee Utter which contains a lot of wisdom.

"By curtailing sprawl and sharing facilities regional and local jurisdictions can create affordable infrastructure. This infrastructure includes water, wastewater treatment, roads, transit, power, emergency services, snow removal, schools, fire and safety departments and more. The end of suburban sprawl cuts government service operating costs by 25 - 40+% because there is less physical area to maintain and service.There are many descriptive phrases: 'cluster zoning'; 'connected communities'; 'new ruralism'; 'new urbanism'; 'transit villages'. What it all comes down to is creating compact development in circumscribed areas while devoting a great majority of land to open space that can be used for active and passive recreation. But, what we aim for in 'connected communities' (to use one phrase) is to have a range of housing that goes well beyond the single-family model."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The FasTracks Dilemma: Increasing Sales Taxes is the Right Solution

The Denver Region's ambitious public transit build out has run into financial difficulties. Due to escalating construction and right of way acquisition costs, the price tag for building out the current system has increased by almost $2 billion to $7.9 billion. Additionally sales tax revenues which are financing the system have been below forecasts due to the sluggish economy. If the system is to be built as planned by 2017, additional money will need to be raised. Otherwise the system will be scaled back or delayed.

Since the vote approving FasTracks in 2004, two other things have changed as well. First, gas prices have more than doubled from just under $2 per gallon to just under $4 per gallon with further increases likely to occur. Second, the urgency of reducing carbon emissions to stave off global warning has become increasingly clear.

The tax payers of the Denver Region have a right to be angry about the escalating price tag associated with the FasTrack system but at the same time its important to understand that the same factors which are driving up the cost of the system are increasing the economic value of public transportation. Denver needs the full FasTrack system now more than ever.

Cuts in the system would have adverse long-term implications: harming the region's economic competitiveness, reducing the value of the portions of the system that do get built due to a loss of interconnectivity, and slowing the region's embrace of denser, transit oriented real estate development.

Its worth noting that construction costs for many critically-needed large scale infrastructure projects grow beyond initial forecasts as was the case with DIA. However, RTD's track record in previous projects has been largely successful in keeping projects within planned time and budget commitments.

As painful as additional tax increases are, in this instance, they are the right public policy action to provide a better future for citizens of the Denver Area. It will be a tough sell to Colorado's frugal voters, but sales taxes should be increased by an additional .2 to .3 percent beyond the current 1 percent rate being used to fund FasTracks. This will support building out the full system on schedule by 2017.

Denver 2018?

Today's Denver Post outlines preliminary discussions about Denver making a bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. One of the civic characteristics I have always admired about the Denver Region is its aspirational nature. The region seems to be at its best when it is pursuing an exciting long-term goal. I think that this is an interesting and worthy endeavor loaded with economic development potential. Perhaps this could be the catalyst needed to invest in public transportation linkages between the Denver Metro Area and the mountain resorts.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Denver Ranked 11th Most Sustainable City by

Image to the left from, all rights reserved.

Sustainlane, the online guide to sustainability, just released its 2008 sustainability rankings of the 50 largest cities in the U.S. Denver was ranked 11th behind Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Oakland, and Baltimore.

The rankings are based on 16 factors: Air Quality, City Commuting, Energy & Climate Change, Local Food/Agriculture, Green Building, Green Economy, Housing Affordability, City Innovation, Knowledge Base, Metro Street Congestion, Metro Transit Ridership, Natural Disaster Risk, Planning/Land Use, Waste Management, Tap Water Quality and Water Supply. For more information about the ranking's methodology see here.

As you can see from the graphic above Denver's highest scores were Knowledge Base (4), Green Building (5) , Energy and Climate Change Policy (6) and Planning and Land Use (8). Its lowest scores were Housing Affordability (33), Metro Street Congestion (36), Water Supply (40), and Solid Waste Diversion (43).

It really is shocking that Denver is ranking 43rd out of 50 cities in solid waste diversion. This is clearly an area where the Denver Region could improve its performance.

Below is Sustainlane's summary of Denver:

"In 2008, Denver played host to what planners hope will go down in history as the "greenest" political convention ever. We'll wait for the verdict to come in on that one before we comment... Meantime, if the Mile High City's utilities division crunches its numbers right (and we trust that they do), then by the end of 2008, the city will have increased its renewable energy portfolio by nearly 1000 percent since 2005. With momentum like that, Denver could meet the higher end of its goal of 20 percent renewables in less than five years. Denver's on track and moving forward in most SustainLane categories, but what we're really dreaming of is an increase in its solid waste diversion rate (9.5) by 1000 percent!"

Friday, September 5, 2008

How Denver Presented During the Convention: One Attendee's Opinion

A friend and colleague of mine was in Denver for the Democratic Convention as part of a corporate sponsorship. He is a well-traveled, highly energetic and intelligent middle management marketing executive for a technology-driven Fortune 50 Company who lives and works in Manhattan. I interviewed him on his impression of Denver and the region based on his experiences at the convention.

What follows are only one person's reactions, but I found them insightful in understanding how the city presented to visitors during the convention. Much of the information below is not new or groundbreaking but it does confirm commonly held assumptions about the Denver Metro Area and help highlight regions' strengths and weaknesses. Sentences in italics below are my thoughts/extensions based on my friend's feedback.

1) Freewheeling/Bikes Belong Partnership: The free bike-sharing program during the convention helped highlight the excellent bike paths and recreational opportunities (such as kayaking in the South Platte at Confluence Park) in and around downtown Denver. This program was very successful and reinforced Denver's reputation as an outdoor friendly city that promotes healthy lifestyles. The city should explore how to make this type of bike sharing program a permanent addition to the transportation landscape.

2) Downtown Walkability: Downtown Denver is very compact and walkable. Way finding signage directed at visitors was "pretty good" and "probably better than New York" but had room for improvement.

3) Restaurants: There were lots of steakhouses and brew pubs but the food was average and it was not that easy to find outstanding places to eat. The Metro Denver Convention and Visitor's bureau should consider handing out restaurant guides at DIA when big conventions are in town.

4) Infrastructure: Although Denver was very crowded with convention related people and activities, it felt like the city had a well developed, "modern" infrastructure capable of appropriately supporting the convention. Invesco Field at Mile High and the Ellie Caulkins Opera House stood out as particularly beautiful venues.

5) Light rail: My friend stayed in Centennial in a hotel which was a 15 minute walk to a light rail stop. He found the light rail provided a good connection to downtown although was slower than driving during off peak times. It was impressive that the light rail trains stayed on schedule despite the extra large crowds, something the New York subway does not manage to do. However, the walk within Centennial from the light rail station to the hotel crossed many busy streets and did not provide a pedestrian friendly environment. Remaking the wider Denver Region into a more transit friendly, walkable, bikable place will be an enormous undertaking. FasTracks is an important piece of this effort. However, the broader changes required, to streetscapes, the built environment and socio-cultural habits will not come quickly or easily but they are critically important to the region's long-term economic health.

6) Physical Geography and Climate: Denver was flatter than expected and the sun was really hot but the mountains provided a scenic backdrop and the light at dusk was particularly beautiful.

7) Hospitality of Local Residents: Denver is a friendly city. Locals regularly asked where visitors were coming from and suggested that they come back for another visit.

8) Convention Logistics: Overall the city and region did a "great job" with security and logistics. My friend was able to bypass the long lines at Invesco for the Obama acceptance speech because he had special visitor passes which provided expedited access. On Friday morning the security screening at DIA was smooth and efficient in spite of the large crowds.

9) Overall Impression
: Denver came across as a well-developed, nice, livable, healthy city which did a very successful job of hosting the convention. The historic nature of the convention and the related activities exerted such a strong magnetic pull, that they drew much of the attention away from the city. Although he enjoyed his experiences in Denver, my Friend does not feel compelled to return as a tourist.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

New Yorker Feature Story on Politics in Colorado and Governor Bill Ritter

Its a a sure sign that the national political and economic profile of Colorado and the Intermountain West has risen when The New Yorker does a lengthy feature story on the state's politics and current Governor Bill Ritter. However, as evinced by the picture below from the beginning of the article, the cowboy metaphor will probably always stay with the region.

Picture above from September 1, 2008 issue of The New Yorker.

The following excerpt from the article provides an overview of the economic changes in the region and refers to the recent Brookings Paper on the "Mountain Megas" in the Rocky Mountain Region.

"The Front Range is expected to have 6.3 million residents by 2040—a fifty-per-cent increase over today—and demographers have devised a new vocabulary to describe the distinctive characteristics of this and similar regions in the Southwest...The fastest-growing suburbs in these areas, such as Westminster and Lakewood, outside Denver, are known as 'boomburbs. What these megapolitans have in common are economies that are moving away from agriculture and the extraction industries (like mining, gas, and oil) and toward service industries (like tourism and hospitality) and high technology (like aerospace and biosciences). According to Brookings, the region will soon become the center of the postindustrial economy, meaning that 'the southern Intermountain West is well on its way to earning itself the title of the New American Heartland.'"

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ten Observations About Denver During the Convention

Here are ten of my observations, from a vantage point on the east coast, about how the Denver Region came across during the convention and how the region was/will be impacted by this historic event:

1) As a native Coloradan from the Denver Region, I took tremendous pride that Denver was able to successfully host the 2008 Democratic Convention.

2) I am very relieved that there were no major negative surprises which occurred during the event. The tornado in Parker on Monday was in inauspicious beginning.

3) Denver came across very well in the television and print media coverage. I was surprised by how few shots there were of the Rocky Mountains and how many there were of the bustling urban cityscape. I wonder how much of this was planned by city officials and how much was based on organic, independent decisions by the media outlets. There were also numerous mentions of Colorado's sunny weather and natural beauty from Bill Hemmer, Tom Brokaw and other national media figures.

4) I loved the MSNBC set which used day and night views of Union Station and the "Travel by Train" sign and the contextualism of the Gates headquarters building as an exciting urban backdrop.

5) All the public investments in downtown Denver - the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field at Mile High, the light rail, the convention center and the Hyatt hotel, the Hamilton wing of the Denver Art Museum - really paid dividends during the convention week.

6) In addition to the short-term economic bump, there will be a hard to measure but real flow of benefits to the Denver Region and Colorado from this convention. This will happen slowly over time in the years and decades to come in terms of brand awareness and an increase in Denver's global profile, in-migration, job attraction, tourism, capital flows and in other unknown ways.

7) I loved the fact that the football stadium's spiritually true name "Mile High Stadium" rolled off politicians and media members' tongues so much more frequently than "Invesco Field" did.

8) The City of Denver will be forever linked with a great American historic milestone - the nomination of the first African American for the office of President of the United States by a major political party.

9) Colorado's emerging green energy cluster is perfectly poised for rapid growth, particularly if Barack Obama wins the presidential election and channels $150 billion over the next ten years toward alternative energy development.

10) Both the Pepsi Center and particularly Invesco Field at Mile High came across as incredible venues.

Monday, August 25, 2008

National Perceptions of Denver During the Convention: THE DALLSAS MORNING NEWS

The Dallas Morning News emphasizes the similarity between "Big D" and "the Mile High City" and quotes Tom Clark:

"Hosting what's effectively the Democratic Party's Olympics all the more bolsters their hopes of a Barack Obama Rocky Mountain high come November.

Local chamber of commerce types are viewing the 2008 convention as a stage from which to trumpet to the nation that it's no longer a dusty Western outpost but a business-minded metropolis, both urban and urbane, boasting world-class recreational amenities.

Indeed, not everyone here wears cowboy boots. And despite its sports teams' monikers – Broncos, Nuggets – Denver isn't exactly brimming with wild horses and prospectors.

Stereotypes us Dallasites might appreciate, eh?

'The most comments I get about Denver being a cow town is from people in Denver,' said Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.

'What's similar about Dallas and Denver is both cities building reputations nationally and internationally as technology hubs with great industries, great airports, cultural venues. We're both very optimistic communities with a hopeful vision for the future.'"

Saturday, August 23, 2008

National Perceptions of Denver During the Convention: THE NEW YORK TIMES

The New York Times has had a number of articles about Denver and Colorado in the run up to the convention.

A discussion of the emerging art scene in the mile-high city:

"Denver is hoping to declare its emerging artistic identity to the world next week when the gaze of the global news media and political power turns on the city. Audio tours of public artworks like “The Yearling,” gallery show invitations packed into delegates’ welcome bags, and convention business meetings at the Denver Art Museum are cornerstones of the effort.

With that declaration comes a kind of unveiling of the city itself and its still young culture of antic playfulness, abundant sunshine and active outdoor life. The art that has matured in such a place might well have a message and lots to say, city artists say, but there’s no sense getting all sturm und drang about it."

The newspaper also had an earlier, slightly snarky, travel article about top things for visitors to do in Denver:

"THE shifting political landscape of the American West, where Democrats hope to make significant gains in several battleground states this fall, helped sell Denver as the site of the party’s national convention, Aug. 25 to 28. But as easy as this city may be to navigate — you can practically see from one end to the other, it’s that flat — Denver’s political and social landscapes can still be tough for outsiders to read. With a convention that has already been beset by cost overruns and a severe cutback on pomp, some delegates may find it hard to see the gold here without first striking the surface. Still, as Molly Brown would attest, it’s worth packing a pickax."

National Perceptions of Denver During the Convention: THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE & AP

AP's take on Denver in the run up to the convention as published in The San Francisco Chronicle:

"Like a Cinderella deciding to pass up the ball, Denver said no thanks to an invitation in 1976 to host the Olympic Games. Now the Mile High City is off to the dance of the Democrats, a party pooper no more.

Nervous about the logistics, short on money, excited to show its sophisticated side, proud but a little touchy about its Western past, Denver is as ready as it's going to be for the Democratic National Convention...

...Denver is determined to drive home the Mountain West's importance in the presidential election and show off its stature as a cosmopolitan area of 2.4 million — one riding an oil and gas boom and strong in telecommunications, aerospace, agriculture and renewable energy."

DNC Welcome Statements from Ritter and Hickenlooper

See excerpts below of the DNC Welcome Statements, loaded with economic development significance, from two key Colorado political leaders:

Governor Ritter

"We are attracting new companies, adding new jobs and creating new economic opportunities in every corner of Colorado as we become a global leader in renewable energy. New companies from places like Denmark and Spain are opening major facilities in Colorado. Startup businesses are spinning off from our research hubs, and existing companies are expanding.

We are marrying our traditional energy resources - including our vast supplies of natural gas - with alternative sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. Last year alone, we quadrupled the amount of wind power on our electric grid, providing enough new and clean electricity for 250,000 homes.

Colorado is guiding America toward a more secure and a more diverse energy future thanks to research giants like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden and the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory. The New Energy Economy, along with our overall business-friendly climate, is a key reason that Colorado is considered one of the best states in America to do business.

The New Energy Economy also is just one example of how Colorado and the New West are leading America and creating opportunities out of today's challenges. We are making similar advances in aerospace, bioscience and other knowledge-based industries of the future.

Colorado's tech sector was recently ranked No. 3 in the country thanks to our high concentration of tech workers, scientists and college-educated residents. We're home to the second-highest percentage of residents with college degrees in the United States.

We also boast the second-highest number of aerospace workers in the country, thanks in part to companies like Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance and many of the defense contractors that do work with our myriad military installations. Colorado is a foundation for our national security and home to six major military installations. More than 50,000 military personnel and their families live and work in Colorado.

Our bioscience and medical research community also is thriving in places like Aurora, Boulder and Fort Collins, with new discoveries, new hope and new possibilities emerging almost daily."

Mayor Hickenlooper.

"The energy and opportunities of the New West will be visible on the world stage - affirming the Rocky Mountain region's importance to America's political, economic and cultural landscape.

From sustainability to inclusiveness, geography to technology, regional synergy to our Mile High energy - this convention in Denver will be like no other....

...already, metro Denver has received more national and international media exposure in the first seven months of this year than in any full year in our history - invaluable both for our tourism industry and economic development prospects...

...For Denver as a city, this is not about partisanship. We would make the exact same efforts had the Republicans chosen to host their convention here. Regardless of political affiliation, we can all embrace the opportunity that his convention affords our city, our region and our country."

Both men hit the nail squarely on the head in my opinion.

Vestas Announces Pueblo Factory

Yesterday, Vestas announced that it is building a wind turbine tower factory in Pueblo in addition to previously announced Colorado investments.

The Rocky Mountain News
had an excellent feature story discussing direct foreign investment in Colorado, including renewable energy and other sectors.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


A View of the Rockies is a strictly non-partisan blog.

However, given the economic development and brand-building importance of the Democratic National Convention to the Denver Region, I am hoping the convention will be a roaring success and portray Denver in the best possible light.

When I saw the following news item, all I could think was - great job Mayor Hickenlooper and

Monday, August 18, 2008

An Overview of the Union Station Redevelopment

The story by Joel Warner, "Union Station May Become Denver's Gateway Again -- If it Stays on Track," published Westword (August 14), provides a superb overview of the Union Station redevelopment.

For a couple of my recent blog entries on the Union Station redevelopment and FasTracks, see here and here.

Assessing the Economic Impact of Climate Change in Colorado

The National Conference of State Legislators recently released a series of reports on assessing the economic costs of climate changes in eight different states. The Colorado specific report is here and its scary how much this could impact Colorado's quality of life and hurt regional recreation and tourism. See below for the report's summary:

"In the coming decades, a changing climate could impact Colorado’s economy. The most recent
climate modeling predicts a warmer and drier environment for much of Colorado. These
changes could be more pronounced if global emissions of greenhouse gases are not reduced.
Tourism, forestry, water resources and human health may be affected in a variety of ways and
could result in more than $1 billion in losses. Since state economies are directly linked to the economies of neighboring states and regions, policymakers may wish to consider both state
and regional policies."

Overview of Climate and the Economy: Colorado, from the National Conference of State Legislators.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Agglomeration and the Green Energy Sector in the Front Range

"The decision to establish manufacturing in Brighton follows a thorough placement analysis conducted in cooperation with the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Metro Denver and Upstate Colorado. Among the reasons for choosing Brighton are its central location, easy access to rail services and highway infrastructure, and proximity to the plant in Windsor. Creating manufacturing efficiencies and access to a large pool of qualified workers were also important factors in selecting Brighton.

'I am delighted that we have found the location for our new blade factory and we look forward to beginning operation in our first manufacturing cluster in the USA,' says Ole Borup Jakobsen, President of Vestas Blades A/S and continues: 'I am confident we will maintain our good relationships with the authorities in Brighton and Weld County as we continue to develop this new Vestas site.'

'We are extremely pleased to be building Vestas’ largest nacelle assembly factory to date. Denver and the surrounding areas give us direct access to a large, qualified workforce, and this was one of the primary reasons for choosing Brighton,' says Søren Husted, President of Vestas Nacelles A/S. 'Our new factory will be designed according to the most efficient Lean manufacturing principles, and we expect Brighton to become the center for Vestas Nacelles’ activities in the USA.'"
Excerpt from Local Press Release No. 5/2008 from Vestas Americas A/X, August 15, 2008, Vestas Builds Two New Factories in Colorado.

Are the positive externalities associated with agglomeration effects starting to take hold in the green energy sector in Colorado's Front Range? The recent announcements by Danish wind power generation manufacturer Vestas are an indicator that the answer may be "yes".

Vestas has an existing windmill blade manufacturing plant in Windsor, Colorado and will be building additional facilities in Brighton. The company has also announced it will be siting a wind tower manufacturing plant some place in Colorado, possibly Pueblo.

See the full story in The Denver Post with a video of Governor Ritter discussing the news. See David Milstead's article in The Rocky Mountain News for a good analysis of the economic development incentives involved in landing the deal.

One really exciting aspect of the Vestas' announcements is they represent a hard to come-by growth in manufacturing jobs.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Milstead Reassesses the ConocoPhillips Property Acquisition

Thoughtful Rocky business writer David Milstead wrote a column on August 5th reassessing the importance of the ConocoPhillips acquisition of the former Storage Technology HQ site in Louisville.

In an earlier column, written right after the announcement, Mr. Milstead had downplayed the significance of the deal.

See here for the blog entry in A View of the Rockies discussing the deal.

National Perceptions of Denver During the Convention: THE LA TIMES

A few weeks ago The Los Angeles Times had this story about Denver's plans for the convention.
See excerpt below:

"In the last decade, Denver has built an immense airport, now the world's 11th busiest. It revived its faded downtown, now speckled with clubs, restaurants and condos, with a new wing on its art museum designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind. It has invested in a $6-billion project to build 119 miles of light rail."

From July 28, 2008 article, "Democratic Convention Brings Challenges to Denver," in The LA Times on Denver's preparations for the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

After reading the whole story, do I detect a note of envy that Denver will be hosting this historic event?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

National Perceptions of Denver During the Convention: THE ECONOMIST

During the Democratic Convention (and the countdown period before the event), I am going to post excerpts of and links to articles in national publications about Denver and Colorado. My goal is to help understand how the convention coverage portrays and shapes the Denver Region's global brand and reputation. Here is a piece from the August 7th issue of The Economist, a weekly news magazine published out of the United Kingdom, titled "Beer and Snowballs."

"This year will be even better—and greener. Delegates can cruise around on 1,000 bicycles. A fleet of convention cars will run on 'waste-beer' ethanol provided by a local brewery. And the city centre will be covered with recycling bins and reusable water bottles. Organisers promise 'an historic event'."

Best Foot Forward at DIA

At DIA they are doing a good job of putting Colorado's best foot forward for the Convention as detailed in yesterday's Post.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Wall Street Journal Section on Economic Development

On July 28, 2008, The Wall Street Journal published an interesting special report on economic development which is freely accessible without a subscription. The report profiles the successes of cities like Kobe, Japan and Omaha, Nebraska. There is an interview with Harvard economics professor Edward Glaeser on the state of the city and an interactive map that shows which states are the most and least business friendly.

There is also a scorecard which ranks how various cities and states in the U.S. compare on select measures of development. Boulder Colorado has the lowest rate of credit card delinquencies in the United States and Colorado has the third highest attainment of Bachelor's degrees of any state in the U.S. below the District of Columbia and Massachusetts.

Colorado Springs, the Denver region's Front Range neighbor to the south, is one of the city's which are profiled. The Journal focuses on that city's successful efforts to retain the U.S. Olympic Committee's Headquarters. See here for a blog entry on this story from a View of the Rockies.

"Keeping the USOC is a financial and moral victory for Colorado Springs, a city of 373,000 that also is home to the U.S. Air Force Academy, Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and religious groups such as Focus on the Family. An economist hired by Colorado Springs calculated that the USOC and affiliated groups pump an estimated $341 million annually into the city's economy in the form of wages, taxes, lodging revenue and car-rental fees, among other things. The USOC campus hosts 10,000 athletes a year, and its visitor center and gift shop get 120,000 visitors annually."

Quote from the Wall Street Journal's Profile of Colorado Springs - "Capturing the Gold"

Friday, August 1, 2008

Video Clip from Brookings with Mark Muro Talking About Mountain Megas

Regarding my post from August 22 about the Brookings Institute's recent report on the Mountain Megas, I wanted to also link to a video clip of Mark Muro, one of the report's authors (and Policy Director of the Metropolitan Mega Program at Brookings), discussing some of the key findings from the report.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Brookings Releases Report on Mountain Mega Regions Including the Front Range

The Brookings Institution just released an outstanding and very comprehensive new report titled Mountain Megas: America's Newest Metropolitan Places and a Federal Partnership to Help Them Prosper. The report assesses the emergence of five megapolitan regions in the Intermountain West: the Sun Corridor, Front Range, Wasatch Front, Greater Las Vegas and Northern New Mexico. Each of these regions are also separately profiled. See below for links to these individual profiles.

Megapolitan Profiles:
Sun Corridor »
Front Range »
Wasatch Front »
Greater Las Vegas »
Northern New Mexico »

The report analyzes the demographic, economic and geographic factors which are driving the region's growth and analyzes the trends and forces impacting each of the Megapolitan areas in the region. It also provides many general policy suggestions for improving prosperity in the region.

The report is well worth reading fully but below are few tasty tidbits to whet your appetite.

  • According to the report, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Las Vegas and Arizona are rapidly becoming the "New American Heartland as its economy, people, and politics become more central to the nation. Politically, the Intermountain West could be home to several swing states in the 2008 election and in time play the storied “kingmaking” role the Midwest does now."
  • The report defines the Front Range as "Colorado’s I-25 corridor linking up metropolitan Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver, Fort Collins, and Greeley."

  • One of the factors which has held the mega-regions in the Intermountain West back from becoming "World Cities" is the absence of a deep network of international air routes connecting these regions with global destinations. The region, including the Front Range, also performs relatively poorly in measures of air freight shipments and exports per capita.

  • The report identifies four asset types which play a key role in driving productivity: infrastructure, innovation, human capital and quality places.
  • Colorado has three Universities that rank in the top 100 state research institutions: University of Colorado (26), University of Colorado, Denver Health Sciences Center (42) and Colorado State University (55).
  • With 19% of its work force in critical knowledge industry clusters - financial services, IT, health care and knowledge creation - the Front Range has the highest percentage of any of the five Mountain Megas.
  • Labor productivity and per capita income in the five Mountain Megas trail the national averages except in the Front Range which was substantially more productive and had higher income per capita than the other five regions and than the U. S. as a whole.
  • 36% of Front Range Residents had Bachelor's degrees in 2006, more than any other Mountain Mega region and well above the national average.
  • The federal government should increase its partnership with regional governing entities in the Mountain Megas to improve they key productivity enhancing assets listed above.

Friday, July 18, 2008

MillerCoors Picks Chicago for its Headquarters

I am a little late with this post but MillerCoors selected Chicago not the Denver region or Milwaukee as its headquarters city. The company had previously signaled that it was looking for a "neutral" location for its new headquarters so this decision was not a huge surprise. Many jobs, of course, will remain in the Denver region. The key quote from their press release is below:

"MILWAUKEE (July 15, 2008) – MillerCoors announced its new corporate headquarters will be located in Chicago. According to company spokesperson Julian Green, the decision to select Chicago as a neutral location for our corporate headquarters reflects the need for balance between the legacy companies as we seek to create the best beer company in America. We plan to maintain significant operations in Milwaukee and Golden by making investments in both our breweries and locating the headquarters of our Eastern and Western Divisions and regional sales offices, as well as significant parts of our Operations, Finance, IT and HR divisions in our hometowns. In addition, we will continue to make major investments in civic, cultural and sports sponsorships throughout Wisconsin and Colorado. Milwaukee will always be the home of Miller beer, and Golden will always be the home of Coors beer."
MillerCoors Press Release Announcing Selection of Chicago as Headquarters Site

This makes it three high profile headquarters that Chicago has won in recent years: Boeing, United and MillerCoors.

The July 16, 2008 Rocky had a very interesting article by David Milstead about the MillerCoors decision which explained that the Denver Region and Colorado do not focus on providing large tax incentives to specific employers making location decisions. Instead, the Colorado/Denver strategy is to emphasize the state and region's overall low cost tax structure and other factors such as quality of life and the area's highly educated workforce.

Its interesting to note from the article that the State of Illinois and City of Chicago offered MillerCoors a tax credit/incentive package estimated to be worth $20 million to offset their relatively high real estate and corporate income taxes.

Interesting Links on State Walkability and Obesity

The website Walkscore uses data from Google to identify the locations of amenities such as restaurants, stores, schools and parks and to create a "walkability" ranking of neighborhoods and cities. Clearly the methodology is not perfect but it is an interesting approach. Denver is ranked 11th most walkable among 40 major cities with San Francisco ranked first and Jacksonville ranked 40th.

Speaking of exercise, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released data and graphics which rank Colorado as the least obese state in the nation which is similar to the data from CalorieLab cited in my earlier blog entry. The CDC animated graphic which shows the nationwide rise in obesity from 1985 to 2007 is very disturbing.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

ConocoPhillips Spurring Real Estate Development and Job Growth

According to The Denver Post, the ConocoPhillips acquisition of the Storage Technology property is leading many alternative energy companies to see office space in Denver's northwest office market and spurring new office development to accommodate this demand for space.

"At least two companies have brought a total of 110 employees to the area along the U.S. 36 corridor. Renewable Energy Systems, a wind-energy company, relocated a 100-worker division from Austin, Texas, to 23,000 square feet of space in Eldorado Ridge in Broomfield. Camco Global, which trades carbon credits, opened a 4,600-square-foot office with 10 workers at 390 Interlocken Crescent.

Range Fuels, which converts bio mass into fuel-grade ethanol, recently expanded from 7,000 square feet to 17,000 square feet at Eldorado Ridge, and Siemens AG plans to establish a wind-energy research-and-development facility in Boulder that will employ 50 researchers by 2013.

"There's a true belief that the northwest market is going to become, on a national scale, a hub of renewable-energy companies that are going to do research, development, production and management," said Chris Phenicie, senior vice president of CB Richard Ellis."

The full text of the article is here. Also see my previous blog calling for the Denver Region to establish a formal brand for the areas alternative energy cluster such as "Renewable Range."

Monday, July 7, 2008

Colorado is the Leanest State, an online source of information on health and fitness, just released their 2008 state obesity rankings, showing that Colorado is the leanest state in the United States and Mississippi is the heaviest. Colorado's high score is consistent with other reports I have seen but it is still shocking that even in fitness and recreation crazy Colorado 18.4% of the population is obese.

I believe that Colorado's highly educated and relatively fit workforce is a positive factor in attracting capital, labor and businesses to the state. As health care costs escalate over time, the economic development draw of having a fit labor pool could become increasingly important.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Keeping Perspective on the Challenges with Union Station and FasTracks

If misery loves company, Metro Denver should keep in mind whats happening at the World Trade Center in New York when assessing the difficulties of planning and re-developing Union Station and building FasTracks. These types of complex multi-party infrastructure projects are fraught with challenges in the best of economic times. The delays and cost overruns at the World Trade Center site are enormous and increasing and have forced cutbacks to the Santiago Calatrava designed transit hub in lower Manhattan.

Biotech and Biofuels Research Partnerships

Two recent articles in the Denver Post about public/private/non-profit partnerships in emerging technology sectors: the $40 million bioscience grant program from the Boettcher Foundation, the Webb-Waring Institute for Biomedical Research and the University of Colorado and the biofuels partnership between ConocoPhillips and the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels.

Friday, June 27, 2008

$7 A Gallon Gas in 2010 Would Raise Many Questions

Jeff Rubin at CIBC World Markets is predicting $7 a gallon gas in 2010.

If this comes to pass, what will the implications be for driving habits, commuting patterns, real estate prices, and economic growth? In the Denver region does this open up an opportunity to accelerate renewable energy development? Will ConocoPhillips ramp up their employment of local workers at their Louisville campus even faster than the recently announced 7,000 workers by 2028?

FasTracks can't get here soon enough.

The Implications of Airline Turbulence for the Denver Regional Economy

When global companies make headquarters site selection decisions, access to transportation linkages is often a key factor.

"With customers and operations in all 50 U.S. states and 160 countries, air travel to and from Dallas will be more convenient, time efficient and cost effective. The DFW airport is the third largest in the U.S. and one of the top six in the world, offering daily nonstop service to 35 international and 133 U.S. destinations. Additionally, Dallas enjoys a second major airport; Love Field — the 50th largest U.S. airport — offers more than 160 nonstop flights daily.

Being headquartered near leading air transportation facilities is critical to global companies like AT&T as the airline industry continues to consolidate and reduce hubs and flights amid higher fuel prices and industry economic pressures."

AT&T Press Release Announcing the Relocation of their Corporate Headquarters from San Antonio to Dallas, June 27, 2008.

The press release above, shows that senior corporate decision-makers are keenly aware of the impending contraction of the airline industry in the face of high fuel prices and the economic slowdown. Decision-makers believe it is important to be located in a air hub city with multiple airline networks to avoid the risks and costs being in a city with "thin" or "shrinking" linkages to the global transportation network.

At first blush this portends well for Denver given the high traffic density at DIA. Denver is clearly better situated within the global airline network than the vast majority of cities around the country. A View of the Rockies believes that its hard to overstate DIA's importance to the economic health of the Denver Metro Region and that building the airport was a wise and necessary investment.

However, recent turbulence in the airline industry has left me wondering if DIA's relative status could be adversely impacted by airline contraction. The news that United has cut its routes and flights in Denver, including the highly prized Denver to London flight which began in March 2008 was probably inevitable given current economic conditions but also noteworthy. The Frontier bankruptcy and capacity reductions along with the Southwest expansion in Denver, raises the prospect that Southwest could replace Frontier as the second major airline in Denver. These factors got me thinking about a "terrible two-some" of events which, if they occurred jointly, could harm Denver's status as a major hub:

  • United merges with Continental (or another major airline) or is forced into a dramatic restructuring and reduces flights dramatically in Denver to focus on other hubs.
  • Frontier is forced into Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a merger, eliminating the only major airline headquartered in Denver.
If these two events came to pass, it could raise the cost and reduce the convenience of air travel in Denver and drag down the regional economy. Even a short-term dislocation of traffic at DIA could prevent the region from attracting investment at a critical time and in key sectors with long-term consequences. For example, a major contraction at DIA could disrupt the emergence of the regional renewable energy cluster in Colorado, causing businesses to relocate to other parts of the country. Once you "lose" a cluster, its almost impossible to win it back.

In the long-term, DIA's location in the middle of the country, capacity and expandability and runway design should allow it to thrive as a key hub in the U.S. airline network. However, let's hope in the short-term we are able to avoid the "terrible two-some" listed above.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Decline of the Exurbs?

One of many recent articles about the decline of the outer fringes of suburbia due to rising gas and energy prices, changing tastes and urban revitalization. This article is particularly interesting because it features Metro Denver and it offers the national perspective of the New York Times. A clear trend in the current housing market turbulence is that residential properties closer to an urban core are holding their value much better than distant suburbs.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Colorado Ranked Thrid in Milken Institute's State Technology and Science Index Report

"Because states can no longer succeed with a low-skill, low-cost economic development formula, they must compete globally on the basis of new ideas, new products and new markets, along with superior productivity growth, the report states. The future will belong to those regions that can develop a thriving technology industry in a wide variety of fast-growing fields including biotech, clean technology, nanotechnology, communications and next-generation computer applications."

The Milken Institute - July 19, 2008

The Milken Institute released its 2008 State Technology and Science Index which ranks states by a range of criteria and indices to see which states are best positioned to achieve economic growth due to success in high technology industries.

The good news for Colorado is it maintained its position as the overall third highest scoring state after Massachusetts and Maryland despite increasing competition. Table 1 below compares Colorado's ranking to the other top 5 states in the overall index and five sub-categories.

Table 1 : Top Five States on Milken Science and Technology Indices by 2008 Rank (and 2004 Rank).

Notice that Colorado's highest rank was two in the Workforce Index and its lowest rank was five in the Concentration and Dynamism Index reflecting a strong overall performance across all the index components.

One area for concern is the fact that Colorado fell from first to third in the Human Capital Index between 2004 and 2008. This drop reinforces a long-standing concern on the part of policy-makers and economic development officials that Colorado does a relatively poor job of funding higher education in the state.

Another area of concern is Colorado's rank on the Technology Concentration and Dynamism Index which fell from second to fifth from 2004 to 2008. This index measures the strength of states' technology clusters or agglomerations which are key generators of economic growth through locational externalities. These types of network effects are sources of competitive advantage to states and regions. Thus, it is important to try to understand why Colorado's rank on this index decreased. One sub-component on this index where Colorado fared poorly is the annual growth in high tech industries (2002 to 2006) where Colorado ranked only 41st. Colorado's small net loss over this period reflected the sharp technology sector contraction after the dot com burst in the early part of the decade which hit the state particularly hard given its high concentration in the tech sector. As the technology sector has stabilized, any further decrease in Colorado's ranking in this index in subsequent years would be a warning signal of competitive deterioration.

One Year Anniversery of A View of the Rockies

Today is the one year anniversary of A View of the Rockies' first post. I want to thank the many people who have read, commented on and emailed me about the blog.

Its been an exciting year for economic development in the Denver Region with some of the many highlights including: progress made on FasTracks and Union Station, continuing infill development in downtown Denver, accelerating growth in the renewable energy cluster in Colorado, job growth in other key sectors such as financial services, increasing flights and passengers at DIA, and the continuing preparations for the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Here's to hoping the second year of this blog's existence will be even more exciting than the first.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Denver's Five Points District : A Regional Jewel

Over the past year, I have spent several very interesting days in Denver's Five Points neighborhood learning about the district’s African American history and culture. The galleries and exhibits in the Blair Caldwell African American Research Library (see photo to the left) were informative and engaging. The staff at the Black American West Museum, especially Executive Director La Wanna Larson, are both highly knowledgeable and welcoming. I also enjoy the blend of excellent Southern and Caribbean food and casual hospitality at the Welton Street Cafe.

Denver’s Five Points neighborhood has a wealth of African American social, cultural, and historical resources which are unparalleled in the Rocky Mountain Region and represent one of the most important historically African American centers in between Chicago and the West Coast. (Photograph below is the former home of Dr. Justina Ford, the first African American Female Doctor in Colorado and current home of the Black American West Museum).

A few of the many additional community-based resources include, the Stiles African American Heritage Center, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, the African American Leadership Institute, the Brother Jeff Cultural Center, the James P. Beckworth Mountain Club, and many others.

The history and contributions of the African American Community in Five Points to Denver are emblematic of one of the key themes of this blog: that the City of Denver and its wider Region serve as the Metropole of the Mountain West with a unique and diverse history. A key to promoting economic development in Denver is to build on and promote the unique character and history of the regions' neighborhoods and cities. (Photograph to the left is the Rossonian Building in Five Points with a view of the light rail tracks and Downtown Denver in the background).

With its dedicated residents and businesses, quick light rail connection to downtown, pedestrian oriented commercial strip on Welton Street, sense of history and community and mix of historic buildings and infill redevelopment, the neighborhood is poised for change and growth.

Back in 2002 the City of Denver wisely recognized the historical significance of the neighborhood by creating the Welton Street Cultural/Historical District. The neighborhood's history is physically represented by historical markers, the Deep Rock Building's Neighborhood History Photographs, the Blair Caldwell Library, public art and historical information located at the light rail stops, Dr. Justina Ford's relocated Victorian house, now serving as the Black American West Museum and in many other ways.

However, Five Point's sense of history and place could be strengthened by the use of additional public art work and signage to increase the sense of arrival into the district at key locations in the neighborhood including near the Blair Caldwell Library at the entrance to the neighborhood from Downtown Denver. Additionally, signage and public maps showing key sites and places of interest would improve wayfinding and visitor accessibility to neighborhood. (Photograph to the right is Deep Rock Water Building on Welton Street Displaying Large Format Five Points Neighborhood Historical Photos).

This is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Denver and I encourage everyone who has the opportunity, to spend some time there.

The DNC Host Committee's Fundraising Struggles are Nerve-Wracking

Scaled back welcoming events and postponed media planning tours due to fund raising difficulties are making me nervous that the Denver Region could look ill-prepared in front of the national media if the local DNC Host Committee fails to meet its fund raising obligations. For earlier blogs on the the convention see here and here.

To contribute, go to the Denver 2008 Planning Committee's web site.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Correction to "A Family Connection to Lower Downtown Denver "

Apologies for the long absence since my last post. During this period I took several trips, including a visit to Denver where I gathered some additional information about my family's connection to Lower Downtown. I want to supplement and correct a blog post from October 2007 about my maternal Grandfather, Fred Hosken, and Uncle, Edward Hosken's business, the Refrigeration Services Company (RSC).

After the Hosken's purchased RSC, it was located near 15th and Blake Streets in LoDo during a roughly ten year period in the 1940s and 1950s. In my previous blog, I identified the current address of the site where RSC was located as 1517-1521 Blake Street which is today occupied by Wahoos Restaurant. The actual address of the former RSC site is 1507-1509 Blake Street where FedEx Kinko's is located - one storefront south of Wahoos.

See Photos from 1950s of RSC and Today of FedEx Kinko's. on Blake Street in Downtown Denver.

Notice the clear similarities between the storefronts in the two photographs, the size, shape and spacing of the two doors, the display windows and the six second story windows. Also notice the similarities in the size, shape and placement of the door and second story window on the building to the right in both photographs (today Wahoos). This is clearly the same building in both photos.

One of the things which confused me during my previous post was the fact that today there is not a building to the left of FedEx Kinko's, there is a surface parking lot but in the photo above of RSC there is a building. Clearly the building was torn down sometime after the RSC photo was taken. The demolition of the building to the south of RSC, on the corner of 15th and Blake Street probably explains why the addresses on this block have been slightly re-numbered.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Vestas Plans to Build Wind Turbine Tower Factory in Colorado

In another positive development for the Renewable Range, Vestas, the Danish wind turbine manufacturer, announced in its first quarter 2008 financial report that it has "resolved to build the world's largest [wind turbine] tower factory in Colorado..." which will complement its existing wind turbine manufacturing facility in Windsor, Colorado.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The "Ascent to Asia" Campaign

The Rocky Mountain News has an interesting article today about the "Ascent to Asia" marketing campaign launched recently to promote the establishment of a non-stop flight between Denver and Tokyo. A coalition of Denver officials and regional boosters are working to generate momentum for establishing a trans-pacific flight. As a marketing professional, I have to say the campaign slogan is catchy and the poster designed to promote the effort is quite beautiful. This is a critical undertaking for the economic competitiveness of the Denver metropolitan region and I applaud these outstanding efforts.

Previously I blogged about the new United flight from Denver to London in November 2007 and about Denver's relatively lower international air traffic in two parts on September 23, 2007 and September 5, 2007.

Poster image from, photo by City of Denver; Business Groups.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Progress on Office/Mixed Use Developments a Great Sign for Downtown Economy

In the DenverInfill Blog, I noticed progress has been made recently on two new downtown mixed use developments with substantial office components : Two Tabor Center and 999 17th Street. Having just filed its building permit, the long awaited second tower at the Tabor Center is much further along in the development cycle than 999 17th Street which is in the preliminary design stage.

However, progress on both these two projects is a positive sign for the downtown Denver economy. Although I do not have any direct or inside knowledge of the situation, I believe both projects' office components are at least partially speculative, meaning they do not have 100% pre-lease commitments for the space. The types of businesses likely to occupy this type of "Class A or higher" CBD office space include companies in the FIRE sectors (financial services, insurance, real estate), professional services firms and corporate or regional headquarters operations. The willingness and ability of Callahan Capital Partners and Shea Properties to move these projects forward in the face of macroeconomic and capital market headwinds, is compelling evidence that Denver's CBD is well poised to grow its base of high paying jobs and attract new businesses.

This continued progress at the likely start of a U.S. economic recession is particularly notable compared to the office space downturn that hammered Denver in the great 1980s construction boom and bust. It is evidence that the current regional economy is more diversified and resilient than it was in the eighties and that the office sector has not been overbuilt during the current construction boom.

The fact that both Two Tabor and 999 17th Street are mixed use projects is notable. With office, hotel, retail, parking and residential condo components, 999 17th street will be a highly diversified real estate development. Economic weakness in any one use category can be offset by strengths in the others. In fact, this development, with its widely mixed uses is emblematic of the broader changes in land use in downtown Denver over the past 25 years and helps explain why the core is so much stronger today than it was in the 1980s.