Colorado emerges as global center

Numerous factors behind economic growth, expansion

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Colorado is beginning to emerge as a global marketplace, and a lot of that is being attributed to innovation, mass transit, and the moderate political state of the state.

“Colorado has really become differentiated from other western markets,” said Kate Waggoner, director of enterprise management for CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate firm. “The whole world is coming to Denver. We used to really compete with Phoenix and Las Vegas, but we are separating ourselves from them.”

Waggoner said over the past five years an average of six to eight major companies moved their headquarters into the Denver metro area per year, highlighted by 10 companies coming in last year.

“I can’t wait to see what is announced this year,” she said. “Our brand is good right now. We rank high in innovation. We are a highly educated state, and on the political spectrum, companies don’t want to come to a whack-job conservative state or a whack-job liberal state. … Colorado also ranks No. 2 (behind New York state) in the country in mass transit, which positions us for a lot more future growth.”

Waggoner, speaking to a group of investors from the Northwest Douglas County Economic Development Corporation, said the state’s modest incentives are still holding it back a little, but that the area has a lot of positives working for it right now, especially at a time when national growth is still occurring at a moderate clip.

“I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback about the soft incentives,” Douglas County Commissioner Jill Repella responded, suggesting that more attention should be paid to those details when data is collected. “Time is money and we’ve received a lot of very positive feedback in Douglas County for helping companies get open quickly.”

Waggoner said that while technology and aerospace industries continue to come into the area, health-care jobs should provide the most opportunities in the region in 2013. The state is also turning the corner when it comes to industrial business, and in 2012 industrial companies leased or bought 4.2 million more square feet than they vacated throughout the Denver metro area.

“I think for northwest Douglas County it shows us what types of things we can focus on along the Santa Fe corridor on the industrial and manufacturing side, and also the commercial development in the future town center of Highlands Ranch,” said Amy Sherman, president of the NDCEDC.

Another would-be positive for Douglas County, Waggoner said, is that there are ballot initiatives on the table that would raise Denver property taxes even more. If those pass, they will widen the gap between the communities even more, making the cost to do work downtown that much more expensive than it is to do in the south metro area, an area that is already much more successful than other suburban areas nationwide. 

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