Economic Development Council of Colorado hosted its Regional Economic Development Forum, the first in a series of forums held around the state in 2017, at the Lone Tree Arts Center, Lone Tree.
Inspired by Region 3, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties, this one-day forum focused on issues that affect many communities around the state. The economic power of partnerships between economic developers, workforce developers, chambers of commerce, business leaders and educators was stressed throughout an interesting and engaging day-long forum which provided those inn attendance tools and resources to take back and implement in their own communities.
It began with an overview of the region’s economy, followed by panel discussions held around Transit Oriented Development centers and the economic impact of place-making through arts, culture, and recreational tourism. Two higher-education leaders talked about how education is a vital component of a balanced economic development approach, centered on preparing tomorrow’s workforce. The forum was attended by over 140 economic development professionals, policy leaders, and area businesses.
Patrick Holwell, workforce economist with Arapahoe/Douglas Works, led the day’s forum with a regional economic report which discussed the power of cooperation and focused economic development in the context of a tightening labor market, rapid economic growth, the need for expansion of transportation systems and affordable housing.
Lauren Masias, public information officer and director of Community Engagement for Denver South EDP, led a high-powered business panel that included Peter Coakley, senior vice president with Opus Development, Jenny Engle, senior director with Fidelity Investments, and Jeff Holwell, economic development director for the City of Lone Tree. The panel discussed how transportation and transit oriented development play a key role in attracting new business and highly skilled millennial workers to the region.
“Direct walkable access to light rail is a game changer in development today. It is a significant economic generator,” Coakley said.
Fidelity’s choice to open an office in Greenwood Village was based on talent. “We have hired a lot of millennials and transportation was a huge consideration when locating here,” Engle said.
“With rising home prices, those employees looking to buy a home will have to look further out of the region. This will increase their commute times which could negatively impact Fidelity’s ability to hire and ultimately grow.”
The place-making presentation focused on how vitally important the arts and culture are to any vibrant economy. According to Colorado Business Committee for the Arts Economic Activity Study, arts and culture brought in $1.8 billion in 2015 and had a $512.8 million economic impact. The outdoor industry brought $4.2 billion statewide. Led by Ed Sealover, reporter with Denver Business Journal, presentations from Cynthia Madden Leitner, Museum of Outdoor Arts, Elaine Mariner, Town of Parker and PACE Center, and Ty Seufer, Castle Rock Zip Line Tours, demonstrated this impact in their communities through arts, culture, and the recreational tourism.
Stephanie Copeland, executive director for Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade was the forum’s keynote presentation. She discussed the office’s focus for the next two years with stress on helping rural areas as well as greater metro Denver and the Northern Front Range.
Wrapping up the forum, Robert Olislagers, director for Centennial Airport, spoke on the tremendous economic impact and regional advantage provided to Arapahoe and Douglas counties by Centennial Airport, which generates $1.39 billion in economic impact in the region.
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