Holtzman's three-prong plan for the economy

Filed under: Opinion |

What do you get when you mix a former investment banker, a former state cabinet-level secretary and the president of the oldest independent institution of higher education in the Rocky Mountain region? Marc Holtzman is hoping you get the next governor of Colorado.

Holtzman is president of the University of Denver. He served in Gov. Bill Owens’ cabinet as Colorado’s first secretary of technology. He also founded, built and sold an investment bank in Eastern Europe. And he’d like to take over the state when Owens’ term is finished.

“I believe that I have an insight that is unique because there aren’t a lot of people that have had the opportunity to work in these three very different but very, in some ways, related sectors,” Holtzman said. “I believe as governor I’ll be able to draw upon this experience and hopefully forge a consensus that will really make a difference for Colorado.

“I’ve learned a lot of lessons in the process. I can’t even imagine trying to take on this responsibility that I hope to persuade the people to allow me to do without the benefit that I’ve had of working inside these different sectors and seeing both the plusses and minuses.”

The key to Colorado’s economic future, Holtzman said during an interview in Colorado Springs last week, is forging a relationship among business, government and education to move the state from its position as a tech center to a tech hub.

“We need to have a more integrated cooperative relationship between the private sector, pubic sector and higher education,” he said. “There needs to be more tech transfer and there needs to be more communication between the business sector and higher education, so that higher education institutions can tool up faster to train people that are in the sectors where the economy is most likely to grow the fastest.”

Holtzman sees expanding into a couple of dozen technology sectors as a way to diversify the state’s economy and improve the quality of life of folks living in Colorado.

“Two of the great opportunities, and both apply to Colorado Springs, is the further expansion of aerospace and defense related jobs in the civilian sector,” he said. “We have about 120,000 today in the state. That number has explosive growth potential. And we’re talking about a sector that on average pays people $64,000 – that’s a quality job opportunity.”

Education plays a key role in attracting and landing those types of jobs. “I’m a supply-sider when it comes to attracting industry in that I believe that supply of workers and of human capital does create its own demand,” Holtzman said. “We graduate 4,000 math, science and engineering undergraduates (annually) in Colorado. That number needs to double over the next five years to 8,000 to 10,000 if we want to have the supply of skilled professionals to fill the aerospace, defense, technology related jobs that we can further attract to Colorado.”

When it comes to attracting businesses and jobs, Holtzman said that Rocky Scott of the Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp. stands head and shoulders above his peers. “His talent is unique,” Holtzman said. “It’s something I’ve not seen anywhere in Colorado or in the United States.

“Rocky Scott’s plan to make Colorado Springs one of five or six hubs for the semiconductor industry in this state has paid off. Even though this is an industry that’s come under a lot of stress in the last two or three years, there’s no question in my mind that that is going to be a great long-term benefit for this economy here.”

Holtzman also has an idea or two about Scott’s long-term contribution to Colorado.

“Rocky Scott understands what Colorado needs to have,” he said, “and as governor my first job is going to be to persuade him that his talents are needed and that there’s a higher calling for him. Poor Rocky doesn’t even know I have these great plans for his future.”

Holtzman’s vision of Colorado’s future involves bringing together government, education and business to improve quality of life and build a solid technology-based economic foundation.

“Colorado’s economic history over the last 100 years has been mostly characterized by continuous cycles of boom and bust,” Holtzman said. “Technology opportunities for the first time give us the ability to break free of this cycle.”

Mike Boyd is editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at mike.boyd@csbj.com or 634-3223, ext. 206.