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Xcel Global Energy Forum. A Brief History of Metro Denver’s 25 year pursuit of a diverse economy. “Every city gets to make “century” decisions. In all of these there is only one common element – the business community brings ‘continuity’.” Bruce Rockwell. Metro Denver EDC Region.

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xcel global energy forum

Xcel Global Energy Forum

A Brief History of Metro Denver’s 25 year

pursuit of a diverse economy.


“Every city gets to make “century” decisions. In all of these there is only one common element – the business community brings ‘continuity’.”

Bruce Rockwell


Metro Denver EDC Region

  • 3.4 million residents
  • 67% of state population
  • Over 75% of State GDP
the century decisions prior to 1980
The Century Decisions Prior to 1980
  • Denver Pacific Railroad to Cheyenne, Wyoming
  • The water decisions of the 19th & 20th centuries
  • The Moffat Tunnel
  • The City Beautiful Movement
  • Stapleton
  • The Valley Highway
  • Lowry and Fitzsimons purchases

1930’s – A New “Port”

Stapleton Airport opens as Mayor Ben Stapleton sees the opportunity of commercial air service


“The man who insists upon seeing with perfect clearness before he decides, never decides.”

Frederic Amiel

the oil shale bust of 1982
The Oil Shale “Bust” of 1982
  • “Denver: You Can’t Fall Off the Floor” – Forbes, 1986
  • A recession is a terrible thing to waste.
  • Economic development groups proliferate
  • Office vacancies reach 31% in Downtown
  • “Finger pointing time” – “Find the bad guy.”
the october cup of coffee
The “October Cup of Coffee”
  • “Crazy 8 comes up with a REAL crazy idea: “Sell the region first, our communities second.”
economic armistice signed denver post january 1987
“Economic Armistice Signed”Denver Post – January, 1987
  • Governor, warring Mayors sign historic agreement.
  • The importance of “ritual” in regional collaboration.
  • “Customs” vs. “rules”
  • Developing a culture of collaboration.
  • “Honest broker on neutral ground.”
a strategy to become a world community emerges
A strategy to become a “world community” emerges
  • Place making economic development
  • Regional organizations proliferate in a “burst” of new thinking.
    • Scientific Cultural Facilities Districts
    • DIA
    • Metro Mayors Caucus
    • Metro County Commissioners Caucus
    • Stadium Districts
    • Regional Air Quality Commission
    • RTD and eventually FasTracks
the metro denver network and the metro denver edc
The Metro Denver Network and The Metro Denver EDC
  • Principles of Agreement – making assignments
  • Code of Ethics – developing a code of conduct
  • Six Strategic Objectives
    • Mobility – mass transit
    • Tax Reform – TABOR, Gallagher and “single factor apportionment”
    • DIA
    • Existing Business
    • National Marketing and Public Relations
    • Special Projects
the century decisions since 1990
The Century Decisions since 1990
  • Mountain Backdrop
  • DIA
  • Fitzsimons and Lowry
  • The 470s
  • Lower Downtown
  • T-REX and FasTracks
did all this matter
Did all this matter?
  • 3rd fastest job growth for metro areas: July, 2011 – July, 2012
  • 4th fastest growing state
  • 1st choice for 25-34 years olds to “migrate”
  • 4th lowest metro area in “loss of housing value” during Great Recession
  • New home for US Patent and Trade Office satellite office
  • Region averages 6-10 corporate headquarters’ relocations each year since 2003.
  • Average annual HQ locations from 1983-95: <1.
  • Colorado now 3rd most diverse economy in U.S.
put two forks in it it s done
Put “Two Forks in it, it’s done.”
  • George Bush, Sr. goes from “Texas Hold ‘Em” to “Colorado Fold ‘Em.”
  • Bush caves to environmental interests and years of planning and effort for major water storage project dries up
  • Democrat Governor Roy Romerunable to persuade Republican President Bush to reverse decision. 600 years drought in 2003-2006 shows folly of decision
air quality
Air Quality
  • What Brown Cloud?
  • Region ignored “unhealthy” air problems for almost 100 years.
  • By 1985 Denver was “2nd most polluted city in the U.S. behind L A
  • Concerted effort by Chamber and environmentalists changed citizens’ perception of air quality from an “environmental problem” to an “economic problem.”
  • By 1992, Robert Redford proclaimed on national TV, “The only place in the country that gives a damn about air quality is Metro Denver.”
  • Region enjoyed 15 years of no violations for any pollutants.

Lowry Air Force Base

Technical Training Center for Army Air Corps and temporary campus for Air Force Academy

please uncle sam don t cut all those 900 a month jobs at lowry
“Please Uncle Sam, don’t cut all those $900 a month jobs at Lowry!”
  • Aurora and Denver combine to save an Air Force base from closing….a base that lacks one important element….


  • Lowry becomes Poster Child for re-development of abandoned military base – an urban community with multiple uses and a “classic” urban neighborhood. Closed in 1994 it is now the highest priced housing ZIP code in Denver.
another bad decision becomes a century decision for the denver region
Another bad decision becomes a “century decision” for the Denver region
  • Fitzsimons now nation’s largest “life sciences” center under construction
  • $5.0 billion vs. $2.5 billion for most competing sites like Johns Hopkins
manufacturing land
“Manufacturing” Land
  • Closure of Lowry and Stapleton coupled with Gateway at DIA turns Denver into major land developer in region – more land than Jeffco
  • From abandoned sewage plant to 13,000 acres of prime land in a decade
  • A “land locked” urban center no more
50 year decisions
50 Year Decisions

LoDo or Auraria – whither go the Boys of Summer?

The Can – Pepsi that is….

Mile High Thunder in the suburbs?


Coors Field

  • Opening Date: 1995
  • Capacity: 50,445

Pepsi Center

  • Opening Date: 2000
  • Capacity: 19,100

INVESCO Field @ Mile High

  • Opening Date: 2001
  • Capacity: 76,125


Doubling the Airport for 100 million passengers

The Super Slab – all transmission

High Speed Rail on the Front Range, with a stop at DIA for kicks


“I like a person who is proud of his community. And I like a community that is proud of the person who lives within it.”

Abraham Lincoln