Grassroots economic development plan unveiled

John Hickenlooper

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has unveiled the results of a lengthy grassroots effort to develop plans to attract new businesses to the state as well as promote the growth of existing businesses.

“Colorado has turned the typical economic development efforts on its head and created a plan with real benchmarks, measurable goals and concrete solutions to help every community create jobs and help businesses thrive,” Hickenlooper said.

The new economic development plan, dubbed the Colorado Blueprint, focuses on fostering a business-friendly environment, increasing access to capital, creating and marketing a Colorado brand, educating and training the work force and cultivating innovation and technology.

The Colorado Blueprint is the end result of more than five months of work to draft economic development plans in each of the 64 counties in the state and then incorporate county plans into 14 regional plans and finally the statewide plan.

County and regional plans were used to establish in the state plan six focus areas to promote economic development:

Create a business-friendly environment: This focus area calls for state government that’s responsive to citizens, but also frugal with their tax dollars and knows when and how to regulate and when to get out of the way. Hickenlooper said he’s focused on the three E’s of good government: efficiency, effectiveness and elegance.

Recruit, grow and retain businesses: This focus area promotes economic growth through more targeted marketing of the state as well as increased coordination within the economic development community. Efforts will build on existing programs, such as the Sustainable Main Streets pilot program championed by the Department of Local Affairs to promote economic vitality in communities and on main streets across the state.

Increase access to capital: Every county and region expressed the need for capital formation and increased access to capital, whether that takes the form of debt financing, equity investment, access to grants or all three. The state is expected to expand existing venture and angel capital programs while also designing a new cash collateral program to support businesses trying to secure operating loans.

Create and market a stronger Colorado brand: A common brand and vision for all of Colorado is expected to provide a strong foundation for increasing market share in overnight visitors, relocating companies and direct investment nationally and globally.

Educate and train the work force: A key economic driver — and selling point to potential business — is a highly-educated population and world-class institutions of higher education. To maintain and grow a globally competitive work force, the plan proposes a more coordinated education system.

Cultivate innovation and technology: Most regions of the state require improved communications technology, including broadband.