Business and Boy Scouts

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Last week I had the great pleasure of spending some time with the Denver Area Council of Boy Scouts.

I grew up with brothers, so I can hold my own among the boys. Scouting was a way of life for me and my family. I have attended every ceremony and merit badge awards that the scouts offer and, along with my brothers, worked on that long-term goal of watching (and often participating in) the requirements that allowed both of my brothers to achieve the great distinction of Eagle Scout. In fact, my family joked that I am an honorary Eagle Scout, which makes me very proud.

So, you can imagine, meeting with this organization today really caused me to reflect on those years. It reminded me how our lives are so significantly shaped by our experiences. No real revelation there, but a powerful reminder of our ability to influence today’s young people.

I think about the lessons scouting offered me and my brothers. We learned the value of patience and persistence. We learned how to problem-solve and how to fail and then try again. We learned about having high expectations and were competitive to achieve those expectations, while at the same time learning how to work together and to collaborate on a shared goal. These are life skills. Lessons that apply to life and to business – skills we all use today.

This meeting with the Boy Scouts of America was a perfect follow-on to the event I attended in Washington, D.C. the week before with the U.S. Chamber: Enterprising States 2012. That event highlighted the work of various states and examined what makes each state an attractive place to do business. Colorado, according to the report, ranks high in the high-tech industry and STEM jobs, in entrepreneurial activity, in median family income and in educational attainment.

It also highlighted Denver and Pittsburgh as recovering faster in terms of job growth than 49 other regions in the country. The U.S. Chamber was asking both regions to what we attribute our success, and our answers were very similar: We both collaborate and work very well together as a region. So, teaching our kids something about teamwork and collaboration can pay in very real ways for communities later.

As a matter of fact, our success in overcoming most of the challenges we face today won’t be because we found a silver bullet, but the success will likely be because we are a state filled with innovative and energetic people. We persevere and problem-solve together, and we teach our kids the same values to ensure we never lose that competitive edge.


The value of working together

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Two weeks ago, I traveled to  Chicago with 84 other business and civic leaders from the metro area as part of the Downtown Denver Partnership’s (DDP) annual Urban Exploration trip.

We visited the Windy City to benchmark best practices and to gather additional information to support implementation of the DDP’s Downtown Area Plan, which reflects our community’s 20-year vision to ensure the ongoing vitality of our capital city.

The plan includes efforts to make the downtown area more walkable and easier to traverse, as well as enhanced connections to surrounding neighborhoods. This plan will shape downtown’s future development and strengthen Denver’s role as the heart of the region.

While in Chicago – aside from enjoying a walking tour and river cruise of this pillar city in our nation – we have had the opportunity to network with Illinois CEOs and to view firsthand how Midwesterners do things differently.

Tami Door and her team credit these annual visits as contributing to the ongoing success of the Area Plan, which is in its fifth year of implementation.

Our own Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation sees the value in such shared experience and collaboration. With its annual Leadership Exchange Trip, now in its 23rd year, groups of Denver-area leaders have expanded their horizons in a number of United States cities as well as in Canada and Mexico. In September, the Leadership Foundation will travel to Austin, Texas.

By maintaining our valuable partnership with the DDP, our organizations can share the information collected on these trips to propel our collective goal: a better future for our city, state and its residents.

The week before, I enjoyed a visit with Her Royal Highness Major General Princess Aisha bint Al Hussein, of Jordan. The princess traveled to Colorado because our state’s National Guard has a training relationship with Jordan, providing extensive training to its military. Further, Colorado’s National Guardsmen would be first to be asked in the event Jordan needs military support.

I was part of a roundtable discussion with Princess Aisha and a delegation about the role of women and our work. The audience included women who are working to balance career and family and who are also learning what it means to be women in leadership in rapidly changing and challenging times.

These kinds of discussions are an integral part of growing our communities into better places. Coloradans understand that well. We know that, by working together, can we achieve the very best for our communities.


TED in Denver

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TED Talks have been sparking interesting conversations since 1984 and, two weekends ago, Denver was host to the locally produced TEDxMileHigh, a regional spin-off of the larger TED program. The seminars originally focused on technology, education and design (TED) and have expanded to cover a wide range of fascinating topics. TEDxMileHigh organizers described the program as a showcase of “Colorado’s maverick thinkers and doers, risk-takers, athletes, entrepreneurs and innovators, activists for the environment, humanitarians and many more extraordinary people…”

At TEDxMileHigh, I was thrilled to spend a little time on Friday speaking at the Youth event focused on “kids” between the ages of 13 to 22. Presenters shared various viewpoints related to “Denver 2.0,” which was about our vision for the future of Denver and this region. As you can imagine, some of my discussion emphasized the importance of education as we try to create the economically vibrant future we all envision and, while I wasn’t the kind of person you would expect to see on the same stage as the slam poets Ken Arkind, Bobby Lefebre and Theo Wilson, it was fun to see how similar our messages about risk and reward can be.

My final message to this audience was about the importance of taking risks. In particular, I recalled some advice I received as a young girl: Know the difference between “loss” and “regret.” A loss is something we experience when we don’t get something we wanted—something we even worked hard to attain. It might be that we didn’t make the sports team or we didn’t get a job we really wanted. We get over losses. We talk about those losses with friends and move beyond them (often to an even greater opportunity). In contrast, regret is when we don’t go for something because we fear we may fail. Regret will eat away at you. My advice was always go for the win and deal with the loss. No regrets.

Then on Saturday, TedxMileHigh continued with this “Risk & Reward” theme. Presenters included psychologist Natalie Baumgartner, who talked about how to find your “fit” in the workplace; Woody Roseland, an inspiring young man who has survived cancer five times; Adam Lerner, director and chief animator for the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver who has to have the best sense of humor of anybody in the region; entrepreneurs Ryan Martens and Kimbal Musk; and many more. These engaging individuals all come from different backgrounds and perspectives, but the common theme was that in great risk comes great reward.

I left energized and excited about the people in Colorado working so hard to make a difference in so many areas of our lives. The presentation I was involved with on Saturday was about food—we ate on stage in front of those 1,500 people in the audience. The Kitchen provided the food—I assure you, it was delicious. What was even cooler, though, is that the only person at the table I knew was Mayor Hancock. With the others, we were just getting to know each other. The participants were Hugo Matheson of The Kitchen; Mayor Hancock; Allen Lim, trainer to Lance Armstrong and other cyclists; and Bianca Griffith, executive director of Sante Natural; and the discussion was moderated by Jeremy Duhon, who represented TEDxMileHigh.

It was a simple exercise in how easy it is to find things we have in common, to see shared values emerge and to enjoy each other’s company (even in front of a whole bunch of folks). I love Colorado for this camaraderie—how open and honest we are with each other no matter who is watching.

TEDxMileHigh is an ideal event for Denver and Colorado, because this region is a place where people are eager to learn from each other and to share their knowledge. Collaboration and innovation are common themes in the daily lives of Coloradans and, risk and reward is something we truly do value. It was uplifting to hear from so many smart people at this event and to exchange ideas that can spark movement and action.


Tokyo, here we come!

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Last week, we got proof that persistence indeed pays off.

More than two decades of efforts to attract a nonstop flight between Denver and Asia culminated with United Airlines’ announcement that it will begin offering flights between our region and Tokyo early next year.

Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, has made numerous trips to Japan since 1986, working with city and state officials, most recently in November when significant progress was made toward securing the flight to the Mile High City.

About 37,000 Coloradans travel to Japan annually, and efforts have focused on both business-related and tourism travels.

“We’re working to fill both the front and back of the plane,” Clark told the Chamber’s Business Altitude in 2008.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said last week the local economic impact of this flight could be as much as $130 million annually.

This flight will join a number of long, nonstop flights from DIA. Currently, Lufthansa offers flights to Frankfurt, British Airways flies to London, and Icelandair offers service between Denver and Reykjavik, a hub that connects to 23 additional cities in Europe. Frontier and United fly to many locations in Mexico and Air Canada flies into two cities in Canada; United serves six others. Volaris, a low-cost Mexican airline, has applied for the authority to fly between Denver and Mexico City. DIA officials say we will know more about start dates and flight frequency once the airline receives approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which is expected sometime in June.

These flights matter, and this latest announcement is critical for our future. As economies of countries around the world grow ever more connected, we must do all that we can to make those connections between Denver and the world.

We know that companies need these connections to drive their business. The potential of a nonstop connection to the Pacific Rim was reportedly a key factor in Arrow Electronics’ relocation of its headquarters to Colorado last fall.

While this great news was the highlight of last week, we also celebrated many successes we’ve had in our regional economy at the Metro Denver EDC’s annual meeting. As a matter of fact, Arrow Electronics was the recipient of the Metro Denver EDC’s “Deal of the Year” award. That award recognizes a company that has made the largest economic impact to the region with job creation and capital investment. Arrow is now Colorado’s largest, highest ranking Fortune 500 company at No. 133.

Other award recipients included 16 individuals and groups honored for their efforts to advance our aerospace cluster. Colorado boasts the largest concentration of employees working for private employers in the industry. Kittie Hook, senior vice president of corporate services for Cassidy Turley Fuller Real Estate, was also recognized for her years of volunteerism and service to the organization and five area economic development groups received acknowledgement for their efforts to locate GE Energy’s solar panel manufacturing facility to Aurora.

Congratulations to each of the award winners – you all are making our region stronger each day. To everyone who worked so hard to bring the nonstop Asia flight to Denver – we look forward to supporting you.


READ Act is a win for Colorado

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The 2012 legislative session concluded last week with a big win for Colorado’s children and our economic future.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle came together to pass HB12-1238, otherwise known as the READ Act, which is a uniquely Colorado solution to our state’s early literacy crisis.

When the Act goes into effect next year, struggling readers will be identified as early as Kindergarten, and teachers will work with them to diagnose their difficulties. Together with the child’s parents, an intervention plan will be developed that supports the child in developing those critical reading skills.

In addition, the Colorado Department of Education will provide training to assist teachers in delivering high-quality, effective reading instruction and intervention. Those teachers will frequently monitor each student’s progress and consistently communicate with the child’s parents to equip them with methods to implement at home that will help improve the child’s reading skills.

Finally, if a child still struggling with reading in third grade, the child’s parents, teacher and principal will consider retaining the child because this is the last grade devoted to helping students learn to read and, from fourth grade on, children need to be able to read to learn. Ultimately, a school district’s superintendent will make the final decision about what is best for the child.

Together with our coalition – which includes the Colorado Succeeds, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Stand for Children and Colorado Concern – that fought tirelessly for this legislation, I am grateful to Governor Hickenlooper, Lieutenant Governor Garcia and the bill’s primary sponsors, Representatives Massey and Hamner and Senators Johnston and Spence, for leading the way on this important step. We applaud the legislature for recognizing how important this piece of legislation is to our economic future and to our state’s children.

The business community is also celebrating the passage of HB12-1360, which moves $4 million to the strategic fund of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade to be used for incentives for relocating and expanding companies to grow jobs. That money will be combined with $1 million in existing funds that were added to next year’s budget for that purpose. While $5 million can seem like a lot of money, it is small compared to the economic incentive funds other states use. In Colorado, we are very careful about how that money is used – ensuring that a company is helping to build a strong economy for Colorado before we deliver on those incentives. Without those incentives, Colorado will lose job-creating opportunities from companies that choose to relocate or expand to other states.

Yet, there is still work to be done.

Our legislature reconvened on Monday for a special session called by Governor Hickenlooper to focus on a number of unresolved issues. Included in that list is a bill that will help reduce the interest payments being made by businesses as we pay for unemployment insurance for unemployed Coloradans. This proposal will provide more prudent management of the fund and ensure that businesses get the best value for this required expense – money that really makes a difference to all our small businesses in the state. We hope the legislature will support businesses by approving this important measure.