The number one job for Colorado's next Governor will be job creation and economic recovery. No doubt about it. The global economic recession has taken a terrible toll. We've lost too many jobs.
Starting a business, meeting a payroll, balancing budgets and growing jobs is something Colorado's next Governor should know. As the owner of Denver's first successful brewpub and as the Mayor of Colorado's largest city, practical experience in creating jobs, attracting investment and expanding economic opportunity has been at the core of our record.
Leaders in economic development point out that some aspects of successful job creation are true no matter where you live. These include: keeping taxes low, affordable housing, efficient transportation and infrastructure, having a predictable and fair regulatory environment for business and, perhaps most important of all, having a strong education system. These are guideposts for economic recovery and must frame any agenda for stimulating job growth in Colorado.
It's also important to understand how we are different from other states. We can build best on what we know best. Aerospace, energy, biosciences, agriculture and tourism, for example, are five of our long-standing base industries and largely responsible for much of our "primary" job creation in Colorado. That means jobs producing revenue from outside Colorado. The more primary jobs we have, the greater our foundation for expanding economic growth, balancing our state budget and investing in public resources like transportation, schools and higher education that, in turn, lead to more job creation.
Colorado is also unique because we enjoy an unparalleled quality of life. Many businesses want to relocate or start-up here because of our climate, life-style, environment and recreational opportunities. Colorado also has a highly-educated workforce, a strong small-business sector, and a diverse energy sector that makes us a leader, not only in traditional energy sources but also in new renewable energy. By sector, our economy has important building blocks in place for the 21st century, including energy, life sciences, aerospace, aviation, financial services, broadcasting/telecommunications, and information technology. All of these industries are on the cutting edge of global competition. If we are effective in government, we can help these sectors thrive.
We know it takes more than talking about jobs to actually retain, sustain and attract them. Seasoned entrepreneurs understand, a strong business plan that takes into account the needs and values of customers is the key to success. In this case it is the people who live and work in Colorado, and that is why we are listening to voices from across the state for their ideas and solutions for an economic recovery plan for Colorado.
Strategies and Solutions
In addition to taking a sector approach to economic development (aerospace, energy, agriculture, tourism) we must collaborate both locally and regionally. We must take advantage of our assets - our essential geographic location, our world-class international airport, and our existing "travel-dependent" hubs such as consulting firms and franchise headquarters. Did you know Colorado was one of the four dominant hubs for building a franchising company.?
We must develop regional business plans across the state that are small enough for us to focus on the unique needs of each region and large enough to leverage opportunities to promote new jobs and economic growth. We are in this together. In order to implement a successful regional strategy, local stakeholders must join us at the table. By tackling economic development regionally and working with local business, chambers of commerce, economic development, education and workforce entities, we can develop a strategy that encompasses specific retention, expansion and growth models for each community. We can use the newly-formed Workforce Council to help local communities come together, share resources, identify barriers and areas of efficiency so that state government helps, rather than hinder entrepreneurship.
Consolidation and Communication with Small Business
As important as government can be, it really is the private sector that creates and sustains jobs. Sometimes the key to private sector creativity is for government to get out of the way.
But there are also ways that state and local government can help. Currently, the state's small business initiatives are within various departments and divisions. We could consolidate these programs and focus on the entire lifecycle of a small business from creation, capital development and counseling to incentive programs and procurement assistance. However we do it, we need to make it easier and more understandable for Colorado's entrepreneurs to access a number of important programs:
* Colorado Small Business Development Network and Minority Business Office;
* Small business incentive programs, including the Colorado Credit Reserve Program;
* The new Procurement and Technical Assistance Center (PTAC); and,
* The Colorado Business Express Portal.
* Colorado FIRST/Existing Industry and Customized Job Training Program
* Colorado's Tourism Marketing Matching Grant Program
* Venture Capital Authority
* Colorado Enterprise Zone Program
* Colorado's Innovation Investment Tax Credit
We listed these programs for any small business owner who is interested now, but our goal in government will be to provide entrepreneurs and small business owners with information on these programs, assistance in accessing them, and their feedback on making them more effective.
We'd also like to bring banks and other financial services lenders together for a "Lending Summit" with state and local government to see if these state resources can be leveraged to help support and expand credit to small business. As simple as it sounds, sometimes the most difficult problems can be resolved if there are regular channels of communication and dialogue. As Governor, I'd look to make these links just as I have done as a mayor and as a business owner.
An important goal is to streamline state services, and invigorate our Small Business Development Centers to help small businesses access government resources. This project will be similar to the Office of Information Technology's recent consolidation efforts, which not only streamlined state services but also resulted in significant budget savings.
Retention, Attraction and Expansion
While the livelihood of the majority of Coloradans comes from small businesses, thousands of Coloradans work for companies that have located in Colorado. These large businesses help create primary jobs, which in turn, support small businesses and local communities. Retention, attraction and expansion for these anchor businesses should be a priority for Colorado state government.
Tax incentives can be helpful, but they are more often a tiebreaker than an economic driver for many companies weighing whether to locate in Colorado. In the short term, we will continue to support successful programs created in the last several years, including:
* Job Growth Incentive Program
* Colorado Credit Reserve Program
* Income Tax Calculation Through Single Sales Factor
* Bioscience Research and Evaluation Grant Program
These programs help spur economic growth throughout the state and continue to create and retain jobs. Investments we have made in infrastructure and transportation, however, are also important. As airlines trend toward consolidation, Denver International Airport (DIA) and our state and regional connections can become a more attractive and logical destination for international trade. Doing business in America ought to mean doing business in Colorado as a prime location.
Colorado is also home to key military facilities and defense contractors. States like Alabama and Texas have created strong bonds with the military, industry, local chambers and their federal delegation to support their national defense economic mission. There is no reason Colorado can't do the same.
Commitment to Colorado's Main Streets
The National Main Street Program is a proven approach that has helped to advance economic development in small towns and neighborhood business districts throughout America. Main Streets are the historic heart and soul of our communities, homes to local independent businesses, showcases for events that celebrate our heritage and gathering places that bring our communities together. During the past ten years, the Colorado Main Street program has assisted about a dozen communities. We will make it a priority that we strengthen and expand the Colorado Main Street program by supporting collaboration between the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the State Historic Fund and the non-profit organization, Downtown Colorado Inc.
Education and Labor Force Development
The quality of our labor force is our number one economic asset. In addition to improving the quality of primary education for our kids, our economic future depends on our support for the institutions of higher education that we rely on to train the next generation of the labor force. A successful plan for job creation requires an equally effective plan for sustaining and improving k-12 and higher education. Colorado's universities, colleges, and vocational training institutions are the incubators for homegrown ideas and innovations.
Colorado = Innovation
Finally, part of successful economic development is establishing the right brand. Colorado is not a box of soap, of course. But if we can establish a reputation for a high quality of life and an environment that fosters innovation, we can rival any place in the world for economic investment. We want people from other states to visit and enjoy Colorado, and we want to attract good-paying jobs. In an increasingly competitive global economy, we want investors and entrepreneurs to know that Colorado is not only open for business, we are a place where it is to your advantage to do business.
Colorado is a hotbed for the entrepreneurial spirit. Economic development experts have tracked it and reported on it. Lots of patents, venture capitalists and single employee businesses start here. That's why we believe Colorado can become synonymous with innovation and lead the country as we come out of the current recession.
We are ready to engage Coloradans in an important conversation about how to build an international reputation for investment in our state. Colorado is a great state, and our economic development plan has to begin with you helping us to make this known locally, nationally, and globally.