Sunday, December 18, 2011

Space Industry Moves Forward in Colorado

I was talking to friends last week about an investment property they are buying in Loveland.  They mentioned they were excited about the prospects for the thousands of potential new jobs which could be created in Loveland by the ACE industrial park joint venture between NASA, the Colorado Association for Manufacturing and Technology and a private real estate developer.   My first reaction was that the park's future was uncertain because the original developer, United Properties, stopped its negotiations with the City of Loveland to buy the Agilent Technologies Inc property.  However, I was excited to learn that a new developer, Cumberland & Western Resources LLC is close to buying the property and moving the project forward.

The Space economy is very important to the Front Range and has prospects for future growth even beyond the ACE park.  According to the Colorado Space Coalition the aerospace industry in Colorado employees 163,000 people and the state has the 3rd largest space economy in the U.S.

Recently Governor Hickenlooper announced that the State of Colorado is applying for a spaceport designation from the Federal Aviation Administration.   "Spaceport Colorado" is tentatively slated to be located at Front Range Airport near Watkins and east of Denver in Adams County.  The creation of a spaceport in Metro Denver would likely promote economic and real estate development in the vicinity of the facility.

Both the ACE park and Spaceport Colorado will be very interesting to watch develop over the next few years.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Uncertainty Surrounding Former StorageTech Site Illustrates the Drawbacks of Relying on Out of Region Firms for Economic Development

The redevelopment of the former Storage Technology Site in Louisville into a training and R&D facility for ConocoPhillips was going to provide an economic boost to the "Renewable Range" cluster of green energy firms in the Denver region and to the broader economy.  

However, recent uncertainty over the future of the site illustrates the drawbacks of not having homegrown, in-region headquartered firms driving economic development decisions.  When Houston-based ConocoPhillips announced a split into two separate publicly traded companies, ConocoPhillips, an upstream exploration and production energy company and Phillips 66 a downstream consumer-facing refining, marketing and midstream business, the plans for the Louisville campus came into question.  Future decisions will be made by the leadership of Phillips 66 and may or may not reflect the previous vision espoused by the legacy ConocoPhillips leadership.   When land use decisions are made by companies with distant, out of state headquarters, there is an exposure to changes in strategic and leadership direction which can imp3de local progress.

Here is to hoping this site still gets redeveloped by Phillips 66 in a way  that enhances the regional green energy cluster and boosts the overall economy in the Metro Denver area.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Denver "Cool City" for Young Adults During Recession....But Can The Area Retain This Talent?

William Frey from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program recently released demographic data showing that the Denver Metro Area had a net gain of more than ten thousand young adults (aged 25 to 34) from 2008 to 2010 making it the number one gaining Metro Area in the U.S. during the Great Recession.   It jumped from a ranking of twelfth in 2005 to 2007 (see chart to left from Brookings).

Frey describes the strong net inflow performance of cities like Denver in the following way:

"To the extent they are moving at all, young adults are headed to metro areas which are known to have a certain vibe—college towns, high-tech centers, and so-called 'cool cities.'...The top three areas [Denver was number 1] and our nation’s capital, arguably, fared relatively well economically during the recession. But all seven are places where young people can feel connected and have attachments to colleges or universities among highly educated residents."

Which brings me to a fascinating conversation I had the other night at dinner with an old friend I used to work with in New York.  My friend, who has lived in the Denver Metro Area for more than 10 years, has top notch professional and academic credentials with many interesting and impressive career experiences.   One thing he told me was that, in his experience, the relatively small size of the Metro Denver employment market leads many talented people to ultimately move on to larger business centers to further their careers.  

Clearly the Denver region is attracting energetic young people who are critical for keeping the area economically vital, creatively vibrant and providing a strong labor talent pool.  However, the big question this raises in my mind is "Can the region attract and/or organically grow enough top tier job opportunities to retain this population as it ages and grows into senior management roles?"

This is a big and critical challenge for the Denver region.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Two for Two, Colorado Over New York: GE Selects Aurora Site for PrimeStar Thin Film Solar Plant

The Centennial State is on a two-day site selection roll over the Empire State as Colorado won out over New York State for the location of a thin film solar factory for newly acquired General Electric subsidiary PrimeStar. Given the Arrow Electric news from yesterday it has been a good economic development week for the Denver Region.

It is particularly notable that PrimeStar was a Colorado company which developed the underlying technology with the National Renewal Energy Laboratory in Golden. So the full product life cycle from basic R & D to product development to commercial production will all be vertically integrated within the state of Colorado.

The hundreds of manufacturing jobs offered by this plant will boost local labor and real estate markets and reinforce the renewable energy cluster in the Front Range. I don't know if GE will be exporting any of these panels outside this U.S. but this also has the potential to boost Colorado's weak export numbers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Right on Target: Arrow Electronics Moves Global HQ to Colorado

In a time of high economic anxiety, the announcement that Fortune 200 company Arrow Electronics is moving its global headquarters to Arapahoe County, Colorado from Long Island in New York is great news for Metro Denver from an economic development perspective.

See an excellent series of article from the Denver Post: Hickenlooper's role, article with analysis and graphics, the role of tax credit incentives, and breaking news article by Post writers Svaldi and Griffin.

Arrow Electronics Press Release.

Earlier blogs about the dearth of Fortune 500 Headquarters in Colorado here and here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Difficult Questions Surround the Stock Show Relocation Plan

The emerging donnybrook between the cites of Denver and Aurora over Gaylord Entertainment's proposed hotel and theme park complex at the High Point Development near DIA raises some of the most vexing economic development questions to hit the Metro Denver region in several years.

  • Will the proposed development, near DIA and along the planned airport train route, promote regional economic well being or drain energy and convention business from the Metro Area's urban core in downtown Denver which has been so painstakingly built up over the past few decades?

  • Should the State of Colorado award a multi-hundred million dollar tax increment financing subsidy, perhaps the largest ever in Colorado, to help build 1,500 hotel rooms and 500,00 of convention space in Aurora?

  • Is this plan the only way to ensure the cherished National Western Stock Show is revitalized and modernized and stays in Colorado for the foreseeable future?
    Can Denver and Aurora find a formula for approving the Gaylord project, keeping the Stock Show in Denver and making sure their is an equitable distribution of economic benefits and costs flowing from any potential related new developments?

  • Will Governor Hickenlooper play a role in this deal?

The Denver Post has an excellent primer exploring these issues.

A View of the Rockies will be closely studying this situation in the coming weeks and months. So far we don't know enough to have an informed opinion.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Denver Way

Growing up in Colorado and living as an adult in Boston, New York, San Francisco and now New Jersey, I have always admired the State of Colorado and its cities like Denver for having decent, effective, well-run governments that are able to make decisions and execute projects to promote civic improvement. As a young, western city without the types of entrenched establishment interests and ethnic tribalism that exist in some older locales, Denver seems to exhibit an openness to newcomers and new ideas.

Economic development gurus like Richard Florida argue that a key to attracting the creative, information savvy workforce needed to power the economies of today and tomorrow is openness to ideas, lifestyles, cultural variety, ethnic and racial diversity and other differences among people.

The election of Michael Hancock as Denver's 44th Mayor is instructive. The city's last four elected Mayors come from diverse backgrounds: African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic. The fact that two of the last three people elected mayor of Denver have been African American, in a city in which only 11% of the population is black, is particularly striking and strong evidence that Denver is a relatively open and tolerant city.

It seems to me that a repeated willingness of a citizenry to elect leaders from different racial and cultural backgrounds to top level positions, is a compelling example of openness and tolerance and will go a long way toward promoting the "Denver brand" to the creative class.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

ACE Manufacturing and Innovation Park Likely Coming to Loveland

Media Accounts are putting the CMAT Space Park site in Loveland (previous blog post here).

USA Pro Cycling Challenge

The establishment of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge race in Colorado is big news and a long time coming. The race is also getting national media coverage from NBC. This is very welcome and exciting news indeed.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Update: Aerospace Park A Real ACE for Colorado

My instincts tell me that if the Aerospace Clean Energy (ACE) research and manufacturing park, the public private partnership between NASA, and the Colorado Association for Manufacturing and Technology "takes off" (pun intended) this would be one of the biggest economic development events ever to occur in Colorado. There will be many challenges along the way and this will be a fascinating story to watch unfold.

  • The indispensable John Rebchook has an interesting update in a recent blog entry on the ACE Manufacturing and Innovation Park.

  • The Denver Post also had a recent article about the locations under consideration by the site selection team.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

HOK Return a Positive Indicator

This tid bit from the Denver Post seems to augur a very positive economic development trend

"St. Louis-based HOK is returning to Denver after closing its office here during the economic downturn of the 1980s. It's looking for office space downtown for a number of its core practice areas, including aviation and transportation; science and technology; and health care, said Rebecca Nolan, senior vice president and managing principal of the firm.

'We're very high on Denver and the Front Range and all the things that are happening there,' Nolan said. Companies that the firm works with on corporate accounts are expressing an interest in Denver, she said.

Nolan declined to name those considering opening offices here, saying only that they range from large corporations to professional and financial-services companies.

'Clearly, with the kind of international corporations that are investing in Denver, it would suggest that there is long-term confidence in the quality of the corporate environment,' Nolan said. 'We absolutely see it and feel it.' ''

One thing which left me a bit puzzled is according to the firm's web site they presently do have an office at 2190 East 17th Avenue in Denver which is one of their 25 regional offices around the world. I am thinking this must be a small skeleton office.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Colorado Advantage: Governor Hickenlooper Sounds Economic Development Themes in Inaugural Address

During his inaugural address on January 11, 2011, Governor Hickenlooper discussed economic development in Colorado extensively from the need for county level economic development plans to defining "The Colorado Advantage" that he plans market to global employers, capital, and talent.

[Photos by Evan Semon and downloaded from]

See key excerpts below and full text here.

"Today, I will sign several Executive Orders. The first order requires state government to join in partnership with local communities in creating jobs and designing economic development plans that are uniquely suited to these communities. This effort, focusing on the use of local talent and resources, is an initiative for all 64 counties - from Dolores to Douglas, from Mineral to Morgan - and all the places in between. We will chart a course for economic revival from the bottom up, county by county. On Friday, I will embark on a four-day trip around the state to begin this process.

Our second Executive Order places a new emphasis on global opportunities as an engine for job creation. Business is about relationships. This order will create the
Governor's Trade and Tourism Ambassador Program. We intend to enlist Colorado-related businesses and individuals living in other states and countries who have a stake in Colorado. These volunteer ambassadors will spread the word about Colorado, brand us as a state that welcomes innovation and new investment, and help us spur international tourism and export opportunities.

A third Executive Order begins the task of making the State a more effective
partner with our counties. It provides for more flexibility and less bureaucracy; more freedom with fewer mandates. It also sends a message to the private sector that we mean to cut red tape, make licenses and regulations more rational and easier to understand, and that we mean to do it as a partner with local communities....

We will measure everything we do and make changes where change makes sense. We will protect our land and water and preserve the natural beauty that helps define Colorado. Above all, we will focus on education as the social bedrock for the hopes and dreams of our children and the quality of their jobs.

In these most challenging of times, while we recognize the limitations of government, we don't have to - nor should we - limit our dreams of what Colorado must be.

Colorado must be a place known for embracing young entrepreneurs with fresh ideas and innovative ventures.

Colorado must be a place where kids get a world-class education preparing them for the rigors of leadership and the jobs that will define prosperity in the 21st century.

Colorado must be a place where our college degrees and the learning they signify are the envy of every other state.

Colorado must be a place where we are known, not only for the beauty of our landscapes and wonders of nature, but also for the advance of new technologies and new ways of powering the economy.

Why Colorado more than any other place? We have one of the most highly-educated work forces in America. We have perhaps the highest percentage of any state, of people who came here not for a job or promotion, but for our quality of life. And they have kept coming even through this long, hard recession.

Plus, we have the best beer.

Rest assured, we will be obsessive in spreading the word about the Colorado advantage."