Governor pitches blueprint for economic development

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper discusses a new blueprint for economic development during an appearance at Lewis Engineering in Grand Junction. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper launched a statewide grassroots economic development initiative in the Grand Valley and returned here to promote the results of the effort.

“Where better than to do it it here?” Hickenlooper said during a stop at Lewis Engineering, a precision machining, assembly and design firm in Grand Junction.

Hickenlooper toured the facility and then spoke briefly about the new economic development plan dubbed the Colorado Blueprint.

The plan is the end result of more than five months of work to draft economic development plans in each of the 64 counties in Colorado and then incorporate county plans into 14 regional plans and finally a statewide plan. Hickenlooper kicked off the effort in February at a meeting at the Fruita Community Center.

Hickenlooper said the Colorado Blueprint is unique in that it was developed with a bottom-up, rather than top-down, approach and involved thousands of people sharing their ideas about how to promote business growth. “That’s a huge level of engagement. No other states have done this.”

The state plan focuses on six areas to promote economic development, Hickenlooper said, starting with a more business-friendly environment.

To that end, it’s important to find ways to reduce government red tape at the federal, state and local levels, Hickenlooper said. “We’ve got to find out where it is and cut it.”

In addition to recruiting new businesses to come to Colorado, the state must retain existing businesses and help them grow, the governor said. That effort should include assistance in identifying new markets and developing networks in which businesses help each other.

Small businesses also need access to capital, whether that takes the form of debt financing, equity investment, grants or all three, Hickenlooper said. “I believe the state can play a role.”

A stronger Colorado brand is needed, the governor said, to promote the unique attributes of the state in competing for businesses and investment.

The state also must focus on educating the work force to meet the needs of businesses, Hickenlooper said. The economic development plan proposes a more coordinated education system.

Finally, the state must cultivate innovation and technology, the governor said. One way to promote innovation and technology is to make sure high-speed Internet access is available across Colorado.