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

CalorieLab.com, 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.