One thing the annual Leadership Foundation Leadership Exchange trip does is causes you to reflect on Colorado and this region. This year, more than 150 civic leaders from Denver traveled to Portland, Oregon to meet with our counterparts to share best practices and learn from each other.
As with every trip we have taken with the Leadership Foundation, this one provided a new level of insight into Colorado’s own strengths and weaknesses. It really highlighted the importance of getting priorities right. Especially during difficult and challenging financial times, investing in the right areas makes all the difference in terms of the future of a community and a region.
This trip, like so many others, reminded us of how much we have going for us here in Colorado. While Portland is struggling with a fractured business community and struggles to align around investment choices, we have a track record of working together to move our state forward, even when we don’t all agree.
Colorado continues to have a challenging state budget-we have a $1 billion gap to fill for this next budget cycle. Again, tough choices will be required. What’s important is those choices are made with an eye on the future. It is critical that we provide data and information that will help inform legislators as to which choices will help protect those pillars deemed key to Colorado’s economic success: transportation, health care and education.
The business community knows that we need to make funding decisions based on data and analysis and that we all must be part of the solution. We will do our best again to help provide information to Colorado’s elected officials to ensure Colorado makes the right choices in terms of funding priorities during these times.
As we begin planning for next year’s Leadership Exchange Trip to Boston, we look forward to continuing our efforts to learn from others and help guide Colorado’s future toward one of economic prosperity.
Last week, the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation released its sixth annual Toward a More Competitive Colorado report, a comparison of Colorado’s competitive position against the other 49 states. Each year this report highlights Colorado’s strengths and challenges-we’ve summarized some of those key points below:
- We have a strong economic outlook-Second in the country
- Colorado has a well-educated workforce-Second for adults with a bachelor’s degree
- We’re very lean-Nation’s lowest obesity rate
- We are very entrepreneurial-No. 3 for venture capital investments and No. 10 for patents granted
- Our cluster approach to economic development is working-No. 3 for high-tech employment; sixth in clean energy employment; ninth in clean energy job growth; seventh in wind energy generation; and sixth in solar operations
- We’re not connecting to world markets as effectively as other states-Fourth-lowest in the country for export dollars per capita
- Transportation funding is very low for Colorado compared to other states-No. 44 for federal highway funding per capita (2006-2009) and transportation funding represented just 5.3 percent of the state’s budget in 2010
- Education is not getting the investment or results that other states are seeing-Third-lowest in Pre-K resources; No. 26 in public school eighth grade students proficient in reading; Colorado ranks 32nd for high school graduates entering in-state colleges and universities; and we’re near the bottom of the 50 states in higher education support, ranking 48th in both public support per full-time student and public support per capita
The good news it that Colorado is in a strong position in terms of economic recovery, high-tech and energy employment and growth in key industries. Yet, we face some significant challenges around transportation funding and large achievement gap at all levels of education. We know that a key factor that makes us strong in terms of our economic outlook today is our highly educated workforce-an edge we won’t be able to maintain if we don’t turn around our educational outcomes now.
The report solidifies the Chamber’s commitment to working with community trustees and leaders to bring about policy changes and solutions that will address these issues. Colorado’s business leadership is committed to the goal of maintaining Colorado as a place of innovation that invests in its future workforce, maintains and grows critical infrastructure and continues to remain competitive-not just in national economic landscape, but in the world. We know we have work to do to achieve these goals, but it is work that has a real return the investment.
To read the complete summary or the full Toward a More Competitive Colorado report, please visit the Metro Denver EDC’s website.