DENVER (CBS4) – Gov. John Hickenlooper revealed a six-part plan Wednesday to spur statewide economic growth based on feedback from local governments.
The “Colorado Blueprint” is the result of 50 work sessions and 8,500 online surveys in which all 64 counties told state officials how government at any level has helped or hindered local growth. An economic team consolidated the feedback into 14 regional plans and then synthesized the common themes into a statewide blueprint.
“Government is not going to solve everyone’s problems,” Hickenlooper said. “But it can really create the environment and the context by which people help to solve their own problems.”
He made his announcement at the TAXI development in Denver’s River North neighborhood.
The six initiatives are: create a business-friendly environment; recruit, grow and retain businesses; increase access to capital; create and market the Colorado brand; educate and train the workforce of the future; and cultivate innovation and technology.
“The overarching message that we heard from local communities is that there’s excessive red tape and this lack of empathy and lack of urgency from state government,” said Dwayne Romero, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development.
Romero continued that the plan “in a certain way, attempts to sharpen and refine our own game, so that we’re more effective and more responsive partners.”
Each initiative has explicit measurable outcomes, agencies and officials in charge of oversight, and projected completion dates. But the goals themselves are broad enough to accommodate diverse interests across the state, Romero said Tuesday during a sneak preview of the plan.
“To try to overlay and to try to prescribe one particular priority over the others — probably inappropriate,” Romero said.
He gave the example of how northern Colorado depends on energy expansion to fuel the economy while skiing towns rely on pristine, untouched lands to attract tourists.
“What we can do is try to temper and try to facilitate and try to find some sort of balance that works, that achieves the bulk and mass of most of our state’s values,” he said.
Romero thinks the blueprint is flexible enough to allow for adjustments.
“It’s not supposed to sit on the shelf and never be used again,” he said. “It’s supposed to live with us and move forward with us.”
Romero will leave his position to Ken Lund, currently the governor’s chief legal counselor, on Aug. 1.
Not included in the blueprint is a specific job-creation goal. Hickenlooper said such an estimate will be available at the end of August when the broader initiatives of the plan are in motion. He’s counting on Coloradans — specifically the media — to hold his administration accountable for both sparking job growth and achieving the measurable outcomes spelled out in the blueprint.
Coloradans will likely pay special attention to the initiative calling for increased access to capital. Romero said people statewide asked for easier and more accessible ways to get loans. The initiative addresses this request by laying the groundwork for “expanded venture capital and ‘angel’ capital programs.”
The initiative to educate Colorado’s workforce for the future is also likely to draw scrutiny, particularly from parents with children in public schools. Hickenlooper’s budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which took effect July 1, cut $250 million dollars from K-12 education.
Lund acknowledged Tuesday during the sneak preview that there’s no perfect solution for balancing the state’s limited budget with the need for quality schools. But he said the blueprint is a good place to start because of its “innovative,” bottom-up foundation.
“We have seen no other state across the country try to do something this broad and this deep to engage so many counties in so many ways,” Lund said.
Romero said that the economic team traveled more than 6,000 miles over six months. Colorado’s “bootstrapping mentality” and determination to solve its own problems could serve as a model for improving the national economy, he said.
- Written by Andrew Gibson for CBS4Denver.com