Collaboration with business magic words for promoting state economic development

If Dwayne Romero could wave a magic wand and instantly bring back a vibrant economy to Colorado, he would. As it turns out, the new executive director of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade just happens to have a magic wand, a sparkly one he borrowed from his 5-year-old daughter shortly after he was appointed to the position.

But as Romero himself acknowledges, it’s going to take a different kind of magic to promote economic development. Fortunately, the magic words include collaboration — as in collaboration with the very businesses that create jobs. We’ve said it before and state it here again: Nobody knows better than business owners and managers what opportunities exist for growth and what challenges persist to hobble that growth. It only makes sense to involve them in the process.

Only about a month into his new job, Romero has been busily involved with an initiative promulgated by his boss, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. That initiative is to draft a state economic development plan from the bottom up, integrating individual county plans into regional plans and, ultimately, a state plan.

Perhaps bottom up is the wrong description. From another viewpoint, it’s a top down approach that starts with businesses. Romero says he wants to hear from business owners and managers about what works and what doesn’t work in growing their operations and creating jobs. And rather than developing a state economic development that overpowers local plans, Romero says he wants to build on local efforts.

Mesa County is well ahead of the curve in enlisting business owners and managers to respond to an online survey and participate in a two-hour planning session about economic development. Chief among the dozens of ideas to come out of the process was a proposal to establish an energy research and development hub involving conventional as well as renewable energy sources.

Romero would do well to carefully consider to another thing he says business owners and managers are telling him, and that’s their frustrations with the level of regulation and bureaucracy involved with dealing with state agencies.

Given his nearly two decades of experience in real estate development and investment, not to mention his military service before that, Romero undoubtedly knows how to get things done. It’s just a question of to what extent he can bring his private-sector expertise to bear in the public sector.

Here’s hoping Romero can work some magic in getting state government to create an environment in which businesses can grow and create jobs.