We thought this might be a good week to provide a look back on some of the work we’ve been engaged in these past six months at the Chamber and our affiliates.
The Denver Metro Small Business Development Center just last week celebrated its 25th anniversary and received its own day in Denver. It’s not the anniversary that is so impressive; it’s the work being done -we helped small businesses access more than $17 million in capital and more than $32 million in contracts this past year. With more than 90 percent of the businesses in Colorado employing fewer than 100 people, it is critically important we continue to make our support of them a priority.
The Chamber focuses on three pillars, each of which helps to support the overarching goal of economic development and business vitality in Colorado: transportation, health care and education. Here’s a summary of our recent work based on those pillars:
On transportation, FasTracks has been high on our list this year. We’ve worked with RTD, the Metro Mayors and the Executive Committees of the Economic Development Corporation and of the Chamber to help guide our decisions regarding FasTracks. After a lot of research and analysis, we believe strongly that this isn’t the year to address the funding shortfalls for the program. Instead, we should continue to focus on our efforts to drive our economy and further increase everybody’s confidence in both Colorado and the FasTracks program.
Last month, the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation hosted the third annual State of DIA luncheon to recognize our airport, which continues to grow at amazing rates. With more than 30,000 employees and a master plan for growth, this partner of the Chamber continues to be one of the most important economic drivers for our region.
Health care and the related costs remain of high concern to our businesses and their employees. During this legislative session, the Chamber signed on to support Senate Bill 200, Colorado’s Health Care Exchange bill. In Colorado, we know it is important to direct our future and not let it be decided by Washington. We support this bill because it ensures our ability to do just that, regardless of national health care reform.
Speaking of the future, we want it to be bright for our children and frankly our entire economy depends upon our ability to improve the educational outcomes we are seeing statewide. The Chamber is working closely with the implementation team for last year’s SB-191, the teacher and principal effectiveness bill that provides an important first step toward achieving better outcomes for Colorado’s students.
We continue to be focused on ensuring a return on investment for every dollar taxpayers spend on education. We believe that we can help improve the current return on our investment and are devoting our time and expertise to help do that. We know many will call for an increase in funding sooner rather than later-we believe that Coloradans would prefer and deserve to see a system with greater accountability and goal attainment before we begin to invest more in it.
Meanwhile, our economic development team has been seeing record numbers of prospects-companies interested in locating in Colorado or expanding here. That is a good sign the economy is on the upswing. We are a national leader in regional economic development efforts because we put the state and metro region ahead of individual communities; once again proving that working together pays off.
The Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation has launched a new program for this spring. Colorado Experience will take Colorado Leaders for a visit to our own backyard-an in-depth look at Colorado Springs and the innovation and investments in this community that make it great.
OK, back to work-we still have much to do.