Monday, August 30, 2010

Denver flaunts its charms for visiting business site pickers

Neil Westergaard
Editor, Denver Business Journal

Denver’s airport is fabulous, surface transportation is improving with light rail, and health care holds serious economic development opportunity for the city.

Oh, and by the way, we get it now when you say your people “work hard and play hard, too.”

Those were some of the takeaways from a two-day soiree with corporate site selection consultants brought to Denver this week by Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. officials.

The group went all over the Denver metro area via helicopter and shuttle bus, receiving tours of Comcast’s cable TV and broadband operations, Ball Aerospace, Vestas Wind Systems and DIA.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and a host of local business leaders and eco-devo types briefed them on everything from workforce issues to tax burdens and the availability of some modest incentive programs — the emphasis on modest.

The group represented some of the top site selection consultants in the U.S.

A group of them were headed up to Vail Friday afternoon for less formal eco-devo camaraderie — like horseback rides to Beano’s Cabin for dinner, among other activities.

So what’d they think about Denver?

Jeffrey Pappas, with Arledge Partners Real Estate Group of Dallas, said he used to have the impression that Coloradans worked just enough so they could then go out and hike, bike, ski or snowboard. It raised productivity issues for a lot of his clients.

After talking to local company executives and Ritter Thursday night, he’s got a changed attitude.

“The work ethic in Colorado is much higher than I had imagined,” Pappas said.

One consultant, Claudine Haeni, with Switzerland Trade & Investment Promotion, said she was so impressed by quality of life factors in Colorado that she couldn’t wait to get back to the office to start promoting Denver as a corporate destination. She told a breakfast attended by about 400 people Friday morning that she’s already setting up meetings to push Denver.

Two big high spots of the tour: a look into the future of DIA and the burgeoning complex of hospitals, clinics and research facilities at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

The planned Santiago Calatrava-designed airport hotel and light-rail terminal and the accompanying gateway bridge, airport general manager Kim Day announced, will be completed by 2015, a year earlier than originally forecast.

Arizona-based consultant C. Paige Webster, Foote Consulting Group, said he was wowed with the Anschutz medical campus and urged eco-devo agencies to go after more health care centered businesses.

“I was so impressed with what we saw,” Webster said.

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