Kelly’s love of libraries

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The business of literacy

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Original publish date: January 19, 2012

According to national data, 8 to 10 percent of Colorado third graders cannot read a basic children’s book, such as Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, because they are functionally illiterate. As part of the business community in Colorado, we must take the initiative to change these statistics.

The Colorado business community is broad and diverse, but there are constants for all of us. As business professionals, we bring the best talent we can find to forward our initiatives, ideas and projects and provide the best service we can to our customers. We use rigorously tested, research-based methodologies, and we don’t take new concepts to our customers until we know that they work. That is how business is done in Colorado.

In Colorado, we know that we have one of the best educated workforces in the nation, but we also know that we are not succeeding with our students: Our homegrown children are not being academically prepared. At the rate we are moving, in 20 years, we will not have enough educated kids to keep up with the business demands of a knowledge-based economy. We need a workforce that can meet our needs.

Colorado must take immediate steps to bring our literacy rates up. Students who can’t read in the fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school, and high-school dropouts from the class of 2008 alone will cost Colorado $4.3 billion in lost wages over the course of their lifetimes. Colorado can’t afford to not teach our children to read.

We are focused on literacy in the primary grades because we know that children learn to read through third grade and, after third grade, they read to learn . Those children who haven’t learned to read by third grade will miss the critical transition into reading to learn in fourth grade and beyond. We cannot expect students to graduate from high school, much less succeed in college when they can’t read the class schedule they are given in sixth grade. Colorado has had a focused literacy program since 1997, and it is clearly not working.

It’s time to make a change. We are proposing a strengthened early literacy program and we are asking the legislature to approve it.

This program will contain the following key points:

• Beginning in Kindergarten, students who are at risk of being functionally illiterate in third grade will be identified and they will receive targeted literacy instruction to assist them in working toward basic literacy.
• The parents of children who are identified as having significant reading deficiencies will be notified early in their children’s educational career. They will have an opportunity to be involved and will be encouraged to participate in their child’s reading instruction. If the student has a significant reading deficiency at the end of the school year in grades K-2, it will be recommend that the student should not advance to the next grade level. The teacher and parent will participate in making this decision.
• If the student is identified in the third grade as having continued reading deficiencies, the school districts must consider investing an additional year in a student. If the student is finishing third grade, and the parent and teacher decide the student will advance to fourth grade even though the student has a significant reading deficiency, the decision is subject to approval by the superintendent of the school district.
• A student who does not advance to the next grade level will receive increased reading interventions and supports to improve his or her reading competency and address his or her specific reading skill deficiencies.
• School districts will track data on these students that will enable us to determine the success of these interventions. This data will be directly related to the accreditation of school districts and public schools.
• Teachers and administrators will have access to the resources they need, based on the science of reading, to effectively assess students’ achievement and implement reading intervention plans.
We are asking you to sign on to this plan with us. We need to improve on our current literacy program that is failing many Colorado students. This improved program will provide incentive for parents, teachers, districts and the students to be engaged a students learning. This program will hold all of these stakeholders accountable to making progress.

Early literacy is a cornerstone to a well-educated workforce. As the business community, we have a responsibility to make sure that our workforce is best in class. We are not giving our children the education they deserve and in doing so, we are in turn are hurting our ability to compete globally. We ask you to stand with Colorado’s children and stand with us. Join us in this effort.

Simply go to our website at, read our message and add your name and organization to the list.


Back to the Capitol, again

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Original publish date: January 11, 2012

Colorado legislators convened today for the second regular session of the 68th General Assembly, and we members of the business community will be keeping a close eye on their work over the next 120 days.

The decisions made at the State Capitol this session have the potential to either support and enhance a healthy economic climate, or hinder it, and the Chamber has a vested interest in ensuring the former.

The Chamber hosted a business policy briefing on Monday in the Old Supreme Court Chambers at the Capitol, where 100 business and civic leaders gathered to discuss policy priorities for the coming year. We presented issues of importance to the business community and released the Policy 2012 document that outlines the Chamber’s current areas of focus. Several legislators attended, including Senate President Pro Tempore Betty Boyd and Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, who each presented key issues for the upcoming session and fielded questions from the group.

We were joined at the briefing by Governor John Hickenlooper, who noted Colorado’s reputation as being a center of collaboration and encouraged legislators to “push people toward compromise” as they work together to solve some of the state’s policy challenges.

Bob Moody, vice president of public affairs and communications for the Chamber, noted during the briefing that “the Chamber will support efforts that ultimately lead to job creation, critical capital infrastructure investment, promote efforts that support our ability to compete globally and those that protect or enhance the business climate. We will oppose measures that slow, derail or otherwise impede our economic recovery.”
That is our charge, and it is one we take seriously.

Job creation and economic stability continue to be our top goals as an organization. We will continue to focus on the three pillars of economic development – transportation, health care and education – with special attention this year on education issues. Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce, and our future and our economy depend on students leaving school and entering the workforce with the knowledge and tools they need to succeed.

During the session, our Legislative Policy Committee, chaired by Lori Fox of United Airlines, will review the bills introduced and will take a position on bills that impact the business community. In addition, our public affairs team will once again be tracking legislator votes on those bills and we will release the fourth annual Legislative Scorecard after the session adjourns.

Throughout the session, we will update you in this publication about our positions and any policy news that affects business in Colorado. Please also visit the Policy tab on our website for background information and updates.

We look forward to working together with our elected leaders to move Colorado toward a stronger economic future.


Sometimes, it’s good news in threes

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Original publish date: Oct. 20, 2011

We’ve all heard it: Bad news comes in threes. Well, not in metro Denver last week.

Here, it was quite the opposite with the announcement of a trio of big economic developments.
In fact, the Denver Post called it “The best week in years – maybe ever for luring big corporations to our state.”

In a matter of days, Arrow Electronics, a $300 million General Electric solar panel plant and the possible return of outdoor-equipment company Coleman, which left the state 14 years ago, came one after another and are expected to bring more than 1500 jobs to the state.

These wins for Colorado signals that our economic development efforts are paying off – largely because of our collaborative strategy.

Ken Lund, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade -and former Chamber Board Member – told the Post of the Arrow Electronics move, “It was government at the local, regional and state level, institutions of higher education and others crossing and working together to bring a company to Colorado. If we continue to do that, then we can continue to compete for companies, because that collaboration does not happen in other states.”

Further, state leadership has worked to incentivize moves like those Arrow and General Electric have made. Arrow is eligible for up to $11.4 million in state income tax credits over the next five years, through the state’s Job Growth Incentive Tax Credit, if it indeed creates 1,250 jobs or more in that time frame.

That tax credit was developed under former Governor Bill Ritter’s watch, and Governor John Hickenlooper is building upon that solid foundation. Those in the know – including our own Tom Clark of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation – say the governor is engaging himself in the process in an unprecedented manner that is helping to ensure these deals get sealed.

Meanwhile, GE was offered a $28 million incentive to bring its solar panel plant here – including $2 million from the state and $26 million from Aurora. That money, combined with other factors, was enough to best a $30 million offer from New York.

The location of this plant in Colorado means so much more to our state than the good jobs and economic impact it will bring. It means we are continuing to strengthen our position as a center of innovation in cleantech – the strongest growing industry cluster in Colorado amid this economic slump.

Monday, the U.S. Census reported that Colorado ranked No.1 in solar jobs per capita and No. 2 for overall solar jobs, just behind California.

In the past year, the number of solar workers in Colorado has increased 16 percent over 2010. Our state’s job growth in that sector is 20 times faster than the country’s job growth overall, the Census shows.

Each of us works to ensure a bright future for our state and the success of its economy and those are efforts are being noticed and rewarded in the best possible way-with results. Our strategy of working together toward a common goal is reaping rewards for all of us.

We hope this is the first in a series of banner weeks for our state. While the economic recovery is a bit slow, these successes certainly reinforce our confidence that is sure. Nice work team!


Industry clusters and growth, oh my!

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February 8, 2012

A very important part of our mission here at the Chamber is to create a thriving economic climate that makes Colorado an attractive place to do business, and our affiliate the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation leads that charge. As part of that work, the Metro Denver EDC has identified key industry clusters that it targets for company growth and retention.

In late January, the organization released its seventh annual Industry Cluster Study, which provides an overview and competitive analysis of those industry clusters: aerospace, aviation, bioscience, broadcasting and telecommunications, energy, financial services, health care and wellness, and information technology-software.

This year, health care and wellness has been added as a new target cluster. The rationale for this cluster is easy to see when it boasts 169,150 workers in that sector throughout the seven metro Denver counties, plus Larimer and Weld counties, and its rate of job growth was 9.5 percent in 2011. Not only does this industry cluster represent a significant economic impact on our region but it is also part of Colorado’s brand-a healthy, vibrant community.

This year’s report highlights that seven industry clusters and subclusters posted positive job growth-an improvement over last year where only the cleantech cluster showed growth. That is heartening news.
Below are of the details about our clusters and the competitive advantages they offer us (the 2011 job growth percentages are in parentheses):

• Aerospace – The nine-county region ranks second in the country out of the 50 largest metros for private aerospace employment concentration, with 19,500 workers. Job growth from 2006 to 2011 was 11.9 percent, compared to -1.7 percent for the United States. (1.7%)
• Aviation – Denver International Airport is a major economic engine for the region and this industry. In addition, three strategically located reliever airports–Centennial, Front Range, and Rocky Mountain Metropolitan–are vital to the region’s aviation cluster. (-2.7%)
• Bioscience – The region’s medical devices and diagnostics subcluster is competitive nationally, ranking the eighth largest. Employment grew 7.5 percent from 2006-2011, compared to 4.3 percent nationally. (medical devices, 1.1%; pharmaceuticals, -1.2%)
• Broadcasting and Telecommunications – The region remains a major center for this industry due to its location in the Mountain time zone and one-bounce satellite capability, ranking fourth in the nation for employment concentration in 2011. (-0.5%)
• Energy – The region ranks sixth in the United States for both fossil and cleantech employment. Both subclusters posted healthy growth from 2006-2011; fossil, 24.7 percent and cleantech, 35.2 percent. (fossil, 8.2%; cleantech, 6.4%)
• Financial Services – The banking and finance subcluster ranks fourth while investments is eighth in employment concentration. (banking and finance, -0.4%; investments, 1.1%; and insurance, -0.8%)
• Healthcare and Wellness – Employment in the healthcare and wellness cluster has grown consistently since 2006, with 169,150 workers in the nine-county region. (9.5%)
• Information Technology-Software – Software companies employ 2 percent of the region’s total workforce, compared to a one percent employment concentration nationally. The region has 41,640 workers in this sector. (4.7%)

You can read more from this report on the Metro Denver EDC website. This report reminds us of our strengths and shows real reasons why many businesses are feeling more optimistic in 2012.