Construction is the lifeblood of any growing economy

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Construction is the lifeblood of any growing economy. As Tom Clark likes to say, “When the economy gets bad, it’s time to start building stuff.” That “stuff” can be anything from buildings to microchips to beer—it’s the end product that makes a difference in job creation. And, job creation is what we are all about at the Chamber.

Construction is also an important economic indicator. The construction industry—that is, the industry that builds houses, commercial buildings, parks, roads, bridges and ski lifts, lags behind the economy in both peaks and valleys. Construction enters the recession last, because funding for projects is allocated in big chunks.

Say a project is allocated $300 million. By the time contractors, vendors, suppliers and labor are hired and paid— it’s a bit of time before the entire amount is spent. Thus, by the time the project is complete, sometimes the economy is in the tank. And, construction is the last to climb out of the doldrums. Again, $300 million is a lot of money to borrow and banks aren’t going to loan it to you unless they are confident that the return on that investment is very likely to be real.

Today, the economy is growing pretty fast in Colorado and construction is benefitting. Permits to build multi-family housing (apartment buildings) were up in May almost 460 percent over the previous year. That’s not a typo. Single family housing permits were up nearly 33 percent over the same period.

This is great news for the economy for several reasons. Construction employs 119,000 people in Colorado. That’s a long way from the most recent peak, in July of 2007 when the industry employed 170,000, but we are well on our way back to strength.

Newly completed construction for commercial office space was up as well, with a gain of 140,000 square feet over last year for the second quarter. Industrial building construction has taken off substantially with three big new buildings completed, taking this years’ totals to 820,000 square feet more than the last year.

All this growth means jobs, and construction jobs have one of the fastest multipliers of any sector—for every dollar spent on construction on one of our projects, it multiplies by approximately three times in the economy. In addition, the speed at which the dollars move through the economic cycle is significantly faster than most models.

Therefore, it’s good for all of us when construction booms—so the next time you are enjoying a beverage on a patio in Denver, toast the cranes you see. They are the best economic sign we can all hope for our region.


In memory of Robert Blankenship

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Robert Blankenship

Robert Blankenship

There’s old saying “there’s no one person who’s bigger than an organization”. And, given the Denver Metro Chamber is this state’s oldest operating organization, we’ve had incredible leaders guide the Chamber and Colorado’s business community throughout its nearly 150 year history.

But, every once in a while, we come across a person who makes a tremendous impact—a reminder of the power in each of us to have an impact, create a legacy. For the Chamber, one of those people is Robert Blankenship.

As many of you know, Robert passed away July 21 following a short, albeit valiant, fight against cancer. We are deeply saddened by this loss of a great friend and champion of our Chamber, our community and our state.

Robert was the perfect representative for Colorado’s business community. He brought business savvy, he deeply cared about the economic success of our state and he was all about building a strong community.

Robert’s last role was as the chief operating officer for the Mile High United Way, the oldest United Way in the country, and an organization that knows more than a little about how to build strong communities. Prior to that, he served as the Chamber’s chief operating officer for 12 years.

Robert came to the Chamber in 2000 following a stellar 19-year career with Fruit of the Loom. As the Chamber’s chief operating officer, Robert’s first task was to create a financially viable organization.

Let’s just say that the income statement had a little more red than black in those days. While it wasn’t easy and it took many years to accomplish, Robert not accomplished his goal but he grew the Chamber beyond all expectations. As Tom Clark says, Robert Blankenship saved the Chamber we all love.

In the last few days of mourning, it’s been quite apparent through talking with staff, board members, Chamber members and community leaders that while Robert might be best known for his professional accomplishments here at the Chamber, his true legacy was the gift of his heart.

Simply put—Robert lived his life doing for others. Each of you have a story about how Robert did something for you—thank you for sharing so many of your stories with us—it helps as we mourn this loss. The Denver Metro Chamber would not be where it is today without Robert Blankenship.

Today would have been Robert’s 57th birthday. And, we miss not celebrating with him.

Tomorrow, we’ll gather at Trinity United Methodist Church at 1820 Broadway Denver at 4 p.m. to remember Robert. In lieu of flowers, Robert’s family is asking that donations be made in his honor to the Mile High United Way and the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation.

Thank you, Robert—for teaching all of us how to live with our HEARTS.


The Solheim Cup is coming to Colorado

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Coloradans love doing almost anything outdoors and that includes golf. We know that the ability to be patient and quiet can be important to the game (hence, I’m not so good.) Well, we have a golf experience coming to Colorado for the first time that might cause you to re-think how you think about the sport. The Solheim Cup is coming to Colorado on August 12, 2013!

The Solheim Cup was founded in 1990 when the manufacturers of PING golf equipment decided that women golfers should have a tournament equivalent to the famed Ryder Cup. The event was named after the founder of PING, Karsten Solheim, and takes the form of a biennial, transatlantic team match play competition between members of the Ladies European Tour (LET) and the U.S.’s Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).

The European team dominated the match in the early years, but recently the Americans have rallied and now lead the series 8-4. This year’s cup will be west of the Mississippi for the first time in its history, hosted by the Colorado Golf Club in Parker. The championship, par-72 course, was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and was named the top private course of the year by Golf Magazine when it opened in 2007. It will be a course that challenges both teams, making for a great match to watch.

And, as I mentioned earlier—you will never get to experience golf like this. Spectators bring signs, paint their faces and cheer on their team—no hushed solemnity here. Cheering, clapping and general jumping up and down are all part of the experience. Now, that’s golfing Colorado style.

Tickets are remarkably affordable for an international event of this caliber—starting at $37.00 for a single day grounds pass. Sponsorships are still available as well—the event will be broadcast on the Golf Channel and national visibility will be high for those companies who choose to become partners with the Cup.

So, I hope you will cheer on the U.S. team as these four women take on the European team. So, starting August 13-18, it’s Go Golf, Go Girls and Go America!


At the Global Cities Initiative

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Fantastic Brooking’s panel with Denver Mayor Hancock, former Chicago Mayor Daley and Brookings Fellow Greg Clark.

The 10 traits of Globally Fluent Metro Areas:



Is a great leader born or made?

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Is a great leader born or made?  At the Chamber, we think they are made.  And, we devote ourselves to ensuring Denver has a lot of great leaders whose capacity to lead is ever expanding to meet the challenges of the future.

And, luckily for all us, we have one of the best and most respected leadership development organizations in the country—the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to provide content, context and access to inspire leaders so they engage in those issues that are critical to the region’s success.

The reason the Chamber established the Leadership Foundation is because we know that our future depends on having leaders who are willing to engage civically, create a vision of what is possible and inspire action in others. As a business community, we are creating a culture of engagement and ensuring each generation not only reinforces that culture, but grows it. 

We have programs serving leaders at every juncture in their career.  Here’s some of what we offer from college students to seasoned professionals (old folks like me). :)


-  Colorado Leadership Alliance (CLA): This program brings some of our best students together from 10 different college and university campuses throughout the state. It includes an annual CLA Summit—a one-day event that brings highly respected Colorado leaders to interact with students and program directors.

This year, Wayne Caudill II, a junior at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs was named the CLA Student of the Year. As a full-time student, he has plenty on his plate—in addition to being a husband, a father and a volunteer for the Wounded Warrior program and the local Teen Court. He learned some great leadership lessons when he served his country; he loves Colorado and aspires to pursue his Ph.D. and eventually work in an organization that develops future leaders.

 -  Impact Denver: This program is designed for Colorado’s next generation of leaders. It provides both learning opportunities and begins to develop that critical network of contacts. As a testament to the caliber of the Impact Denver class, Aubrey Cornelius, president of Sprocket Communications, is in the current Impact Denver class and was recognized as a finalist for the 2013 Small Business of the Year Award.

Mid-senior  Level

-  Leadership Denver (LD): This 11-month program prepares class participants to increase their impact within their organization and in their community. LD  brings together public, private and non-profits organizations into an environment where they can learn together. It also provides participants with a deeper understanding of regional issues including poverty, social justice, arts and culture, and politics. 

Dixie Malone, alumnus of LD 2003, was presented the 2013 David E. Bailey Small Business Advocate of the Year Award for her work as a business specialist at the Denver Center Public Library.

-  Legacy Denver: This program provides an intimate forum where some of Denver’s most prominent business and community leaders lead small groups in discussions about the challenges they have faced and provide insight into their own leadership styles. 

Cathey Finlon, former Denver Art Museum president and past chair of the Chamber Board, is currently serving as a dialogue leader for this program. At our last annual meeting, Finlon received the Del Hock Lifetime Achievement Award for her dedication and significant involvement in the business community. She is also a past LEX participant.

-  Colorado Experience: This program provides an opportunity for leaders of different generations to better understand Colorado’s challenges and issues region by region. This two day exploration looks indepth at issues that bind our state and those that may be unique to parts of Colorado.

Cindy Parsons, vice president of public relations for Comcast, is the incoming chair of the Foundation board and has attended this program, is an LD grad and LEX participant.

Seasoned Executives

-  Access Denver: This program provides a two-day, executive summary of the issues facing Colorado.  It is designed for executives who have been newly promoted or are new to Denver. I call it the executive summary of LD.

-  Leadership Exchange (LEX): Each year, 150 business and civic leaders from Colorado travel to another city to learn about best practices that can be brought back to our state. By experiencing these lessons as a group, we are able to foster a shared vision of what we want to accomplish and more easily create a dialogue and a strategy for executing those ideas. This year the group will convene in Pittsburgh, Pa.

We’ve also had several LEX participants recognized for their work in their community—here are a few shout-outs: Mowa Haile’s company Sky Blue Builders was recognized for the past two years as a Minority/Woman-owned Business of the Year finalist; and both Ron Montoya and Don Kortz were inducted this year into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame. 

We know our work is paying off. We established the Leadership Foundation 26 years ago it stronger than ever. We have more than 3,000 alumni, sharing values of working together, committed to helping ensure Colorado thrives. Become part of this team—you can learn more about each of our programs by clicking here.


Helping Colorado Wildfire Victims

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The El Paso County region has had two of the most devastating fires in Colorado history—and they happened almost exactly 12 months apart.

When the impact of the two fires is combined, nearly 800 homes and businesses have been lost, four people lost their lives and the total damage could reach more than $1 billion.

The real tragedy in both of these fires is that they were caused by humans. Colorado’s drought and hot summer winds certainly provided the fuel that resulted in the fires growing to cause such destruction, but the spark was man-made.

There are three other fires burning in Colorado, one north of Rifle, another in Rocky Mountain National Park, and we just received word today of a fire burning in southern Jefferson County. Last year’s fires cost Colorado more than $40 million dollars and the toll this year will likely be more than that.

These dollars can’t measure the full cost of what families have lost and how communities have suffered. These dollars also don’t measure the impact on the communities’ economies because roads were closed (including the Royal Gorge Bridge) and so there were less visitors or tourists.

And, the money certainly doesn’t measure what it takes for a community to rally again. 

That’s where we all come in. While we cannot replace the losses, we know we can help the families and businesses who have been impacted. Here’s how you can help: 

Donation Organizations

Pikes Peak Region Business Recovery Fund
This is a short-term loan program for businesses impacted by the Black Forest and Waldo Canyon fires. This fund will help businesses get back on their feet quickly and re-employ Coloradans in these areas.

Pikes Peak Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund
This is an emergency relief fund that will help support non-profits and first responder organizations who are providing local disaster relief.

El Paso County Disaster Assistance Center (DAC)
The Disaster Assistance Center is designed to bring together the resources of multiple non-profit and governmental agencies offering assistance to all El Paso County residents.

Small Business Development Center – Disaster Assistance Center (DAC)
The SBDC of Colorado Springs is pooling information and resource connection for those who have lost businesses in the Black Forest and surrounding fires.

Updates on the Fires

El Paso County Fire Updates

City of Colorado Springs Fire Updates

General information

Convention and Visitors Bureau of Colorado Springs has good fire updates for visitors.

Royal Gorge Bridge information

Ways to get, give help

The Colorado Springs Gazette has a good list of places where residents and business can get or give help.

Estes Park Trail Gazette-This local Estes Park newspaper has good information on the fire in Rocky Mountain National Park.

We also suggest that we show these Colorado communities our support by visiting them – take a Colorado vacation. 

Whether you choose to go down to El Paso County and have dinner, ride the Pikes Peak Cog railway, visit Cave of the Winds or visit the Royal Gorge Bridge (as soon as it reopens most likely at the end of next month,) I can promise you will have a great time. Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park is open for business and there is no better place to buy salt water taffy than there. And, of course, rafting and hiking in the Poudre River Canyon is a wonderful way to spend a glorious day—I  promise you will see an eagle if you go, and you can have a burger along with your live music fix at the historic Mishawaka Inn on the way back.

To the communities impacted, please know more than our thoughts are with you.  We hope to show our support for your loss every way possible way we can.  Look for us in your communities—we will be the friendly visitors continuing to ask how we can help.


Colorado Competitive Council’s Base Camp

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The Colorado Competitive Council (C3), the Chamber’s statewide lobbying affiliate, was established because we recognized that for Colorado to compete in this global environment and for businesses across the state to succeed, we needed to engage all areas of Colorado and ensure a statewide, strategic, public policy focus. Currently, 33 companies work together in C3 representing many of our industry clusters, including agriculture, energy, health care, aerospace, telecommunications and water.

Together, these C3 investors are working to create the best business climate of any state in the country. C3 also has a steering committee guiding its work which is made up of over 60 chambers of commerce, business associations, economic development organizations and trade groups throughout the state. And, let me tell you, these folks collectively have the juice to get a lot done in Colorado. 

As you can imagine, when you bring multiple industries together, urban and rural interests, western slope and front range views, significant learning goes on to ensure we make the right policy choices for Colorado.

To help support that learning and alignment of interests, C3 has scheduled four days this summer and fall when C3 investors will travel around Colorado to meet with legislators in their home districts to understand the business concerns in those areas of the state and discuss their legislative priorities for the 2014 General Assembly.

This effort, titled “Business Base Camps”, will result in a business community with a stronger sense of the statewide challenges in each of these legislator’s districts. In turn, legislators will get an opportunity to build relationships with key business leaders and understand how business might view and approach these challenges. 

Each completely interactive C3 Business Base Camp will be a full day, from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. There won’t be a table where legislators are on one side and business is on the other. This is a collaborative opportunity where we will visit communities and, as a group, examine the challenges and successes across the state. It’s a rare chance to share professional experience in the areas where we see problems or opportunities and brainstorm solutions together.

We are excited to support efforts that enhance the working relationship between business and the members of the General Assembly. We will share what comes out of these trips as well, so stay tuned. 

For more information on the C3 Business Base Camps or on C3 membership, please contact either me or our C3 director, Mizraim Cordero.


Ascent to Asia

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This is a big week for Colorado. It took almost three decades but we now have a non-stop flight to Japan—a gateway to all of Asia.

It’s a great example of public-private cooperation and the fruits of those labors is scheduled to leave on Monday, June 10 with the inaugural flight to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport.

Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, has made 13 in the last 27 years (but who’s counting?) to Japan to help secure the non-stop flight. Tom’s persistence alongside a number of Colorado governors, Denver mayors, managers and staff from Denver International Airport, chairs of both the Economic Development Corporation and the Chamber, and one business leader who consistently helped with this effort during all of these years—Dick Clark at Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons—made this great effort happen.

As Colorado positions itself more and more on the global scene, these flights truly matter. Take, for example, the recently added non-stop flight to Reykjavik via Icelandair. This flight, which ultimately connects to 22 cities in Europe, has seen a 672 percent increase in the number of passengers since 2012. 

This new Japan flight will create a major gateway between the Intermountain West and Asia and should yield similar results as the Reykjavik flight. With 20 connections into Asia from Tokyo, it will help drive business opportunities between Asia and Colorado.

Japan currently ranks as Colorado’s fourth largest export market worldwide and second largest in Asia. Annual manufactured and agriculture exports from Colorado to Japan totaled more than $427 million in 2012, with 40 percent shipped by air. These flights will also increase tourism travel and all in we are expecting a total economic impact of $130 million a year.

More than 70 Colorado business, tourism and government officials will be on the inaugural flight and are prepared to show Asia that Colorado is open for business. Here is a preview of what we will be sharing and what is on the agenda:

  • Highlight Colorado’s unique position in renewable energy and oil and gas production at the Colorado-Japan Innovation and Collaboration in Energy roundtable that will explore opportunities for partnerships.
  • Tour Tokyo and learn about the city’s bid for the Summer 2020 Olympic games, as Denver continues to explore a possible future Winter Olympics bid.
  • Promote Colorado as a tourist destination highlighting our Rocky Mountains, ski resorts and nearby regional attractions such as Yellowstone National Park.
  • Highlight Denver’s 600,000 square feet of convention space and more than 44,000 hotel rooms as well as downtown Denver’s amenities.
  • Bridge educational opportunities between Coloradans and Japanese through a “Colorado Expo” for students, parents and educators.

Mayor Hancock and Tom Clark will also use this opportunity to visit Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea following the Japan trip.

And, United’s brand new 787 Dreamliner, the most innovative, one-of-its kind plane on the market, built and engineered with this route in mind, is what we all get to take when we make this trip. While there’s been hiccups to get the plane in service, those are all worked out and glitches are not surprising when new technologies and revolutionary design are being deployed. 

The 219-seat Dreamliner will take 11 hours from Tokyo to Denver, and 12 hours from Denver to Tokyo.

Our sincere thanks to those who worked so hard to bring us this moment and more importantly this economic benefit.  Ready or not, here we come. It will be afternoon when the flight arrives so – Konnichiwa, Tokyo!


Federal Immigration Reform

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Last fall, the Chamber Board of Directors voted unanimously to adopt a resolution supporting the Colorado Compact, a document originating from U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.

This resolution expresses the Chamber’s belief that immigration policies must be addressed at the federal level and immigration policy must be guided by the economic needs of our region and country. This resolution also set forth the Chamber’s immigration reform priorities.

And, it appears having a clear point of view and position on this topic well in advance of the bipartisan bill—the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, is helpful. We’ve analyzed the 844 pages (yes, that isn’t a typo) of the bill and its impact to Colorado’s business community and economic health. We’ve also worked closely with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on many of the bill’s provisions.

After this careful analysis, the Chamber’s Legislative Policy Committee voted to support the bill because it is consistent with the principles outlined in the Chamber’s resolution on immigration reform. The bill not only addresses the critical issues identified in the Chamber’s resolution months ago, but also other concerns and issues many of you have raised as well: 

1. Addresses the crucial business need for an educated work force. 
The bill provides an expedited road to citizenship (it’s 13 years for others) for those who entered the U.S. before the age of 16 (were brought here as children through no choice of their own), graduated from high school or received a GED and attended at least two years of college or served four years in the military.

This provision aligns with the Chamber’s resolution—when these students go on to college or serve in the military, both which provide valuable and necessary skills we need in our workers, they will be given a path to citizenship.

2. Addresses the need for additional highly skilled workers, such as scientists and researchers.
Currently, there is a shortage of H-1B visas, which has a negative impact on attracting and retaining highly skilled foreign national professionals particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) jobs. The bill raises the visa cap for these jobs from 65,000 to 110,000 with this number to be adjusted in future years using a High Skilled Jobs Demand Index with an ultimate cap of 180,000. 

This expansion aligns with the Chamber’s resolution as well. Many of Colorado’s industry clusters, such as aerospace, bioscience, energy and health care, rely on these specialized experts. 

3. Addresses the need for key industries in Colorado to be able to access short-term workers.
Some of Colorado’s top industries (agriculture and recreational) struggle to get the workers they need through the temporary visas currently available.  The bill creates a W-Visa program for lower-skilled workers that are good for three years. A specific visa will be created for the agriculture industry (W-3 Visas and contract-based visas).

The Chamber resolution supports these types of visas being based on industry needs and should be able to fluctuate with the overall strength of the Colorado economy and the bill provides for that. 

4. Addresses an E-Verify system with safe harbor provisions for employers.
We have long opposed requirements for verification systems that place employers liable for hiring someone even when they acted in good faith to follow the law. This bill contains a requirement that business use a new E-Verify system that will eventually replace the paper I-9 requirement, with a safe harbor provision.

We continue to work with the U.S. Chamber and our federal delegation to ensure that a federal E-Verify requirement would have a phase-in period for only new employees.

5. Addresses border control.
Many of our members expressed concern about solving this issue only to find that the borders were not secure enough and the problem was exacerbated. The bill contains provisions to increase border security in high risk sectors along the southern border of the U.S. and sets an effectiveness goal of 90 percent. The bill appropriates over $4 billion to border security.

We are hopeful as we watch Congress try to find the right path forward to our country. Our economic future depends on them getting this right and we hope our guidance as to what Colorado needs helps support their decisions.


Gratitude for Memorial Day

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A special note for Memorial Day weekend

 Summer begins this weekend by popular view (never mind the position of sun in the sky). School is out or almost out and it’s Memorial Day weekend.  

Before we all start planning a great answer for that Fall question: “What did you do over summer vacation?”, we first want to remind you how Memorial Day came to be. 

The first memorial day was May 30, 1868 and called Decoration Day—a day of remembrance for those who died in their service to our country. A perfect start to the season we associate with all the freedoms summer brings. 

A special tribute to Colorado’s fallen will take place this weekend as the Colorado Freedom Memorial is dedicated in Aurora. This is the first memorial in the country that is dedicated to all wars and branches of service. More than 6,000 names of Colorado service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice will appear on the memorial.

Colorado’s military presence has had a long and important place in Colorado. We have six military installations in the state employing more than 73,000 people. According to our friends at the Colorado Springs Business Alliance, the direct economic impact from these installations in 2011 was estimated at nearly $7 billion, and that doesn’t include the economic impact resulting from contracts with private sector companies. 

We also have nearly 426,000 veterans who call Colorado home—we are thrilled they are here. 

To all our Gold Star families (those whose family members have given their lives for our country) and Colorado veterans, we say “thank you” from the bottom of our hearts. I hope each of us find a way to express the gratitude we have this weekend.

Summer Happenings in the City

Consider a staycation this summer and experience all that the Denver metro area has to offer.

Here are a few of my favorites:

-Civic Center EATS Outdoor Café: a lunchtime tradition at Civic Center Park with a line-up of food trucks galore. Take your next business meeting outdoors every Tuesday and Thursday beginning June 7.

-Larimer Square Summer Film Series: Consider dinner and an outdoor movie, just steps from the Chamber building. Reservations are recommended for the series that runs June through September.

-KidSpree @YumFest: The ultimate family festival in Aurora, held June 8, features everything from Karaoke, to BMX demos, climbing walls and pony rides.

-Golden’s Farmers Market: Head out of the city and enjoy this farmer’s market right along Clear Creek in Golden. Vendors sell local produce, prepared food, flowers and more. The market begins June 1 and continues through October 5.

-Westminster Jazz and Art Festival: This free event, also on June 8, takes part in the city’s Historic Art District with live music, food and vendors.  

-Solheim Cup: This prestigious event will bring the best of the best Ladies Professional Golf Association (LGPA) athletes to Parker, Colorado. Held every two years throughout Europe and the U.S., this will be an opportunity to experience another major international sporting event right in our own backyard.

-Denver Botanic Gardens Summer Concert Series: Where else can you experience the beautiful scenery of summer flowers in full bloom and listen to the likes of Tony Bennett, the Indigo Girls or Chris Issak to name a few?

-USA Pro-cycling Challenge: Now in its third year, the 2013 professional road cycling race highlights Colorado’s scenery and challenging altitudes. Watch the finish in Denver on August 25.

-Denver B-cycle rides: If racing road bikes aren’t your speed, take it down a notch and enjoy the sights or ride to your next business meeting on a shiny red B-cycle bike. Take advantage of their early season membership discount- only $59 for the entire season. Hurry though- their offer expires May 24.