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.