During his first speech as governor-elect, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper discussed his plans for state wide economic growth at the Downtown Partnership’s 13th Annual Mayor’s Breakfast in Colorado Springs.
More than 300 people heard the mayor speak inside the SaGaJi Theatre at the Fine Arts Center.
Hickenlooper received three standing ovations from the council members, businessmen, police officers and Army personnel on hand for the presentations.
The incoming governor began where he is most comfortable, a showcase of his background as a small business owner led into some convincing plans for economic growth.
He said that because there is no appetite for raising taxes, and no hidden reserves of money in the state coffers, the only way to restore the recent cutbacks in education and infrastructure would be to foster an economic environment that will attract and grow new businesses.
To do this, he has planned a bottom-up economic plan. Hickenlooper said that the small business people, not giant corporations or influential politicians, would be responsible for putting together an economic development plan for their respective counties. Those 64 county economic plans will be channeled into nine regional development plans that will make-up the one statewide plan.
In a nod to Lt. Gov.-elect Joe Garcia, former president of Pikes Peak Community College, Hickenlooper touted the importance of education.
He said that 34 percent of Colorado schools districts are on four day weeks due to budget-mandated furloughs, and that cuts to higher education are impinging upon the talent that will be driving the future economy. Hickenlooper believes that entrepreneurs aren’t just looking for a favorable tax environment; they’re also looking for a good place to raise a family. A strong education system is critical on that front, he said.
Hickenlooper touched-on an advertising campaign to inform the country about the favorable economic environment in Colorado. He cited a Forbes survey that listed Colorado as the fourth best state for business, and talked about enhancing the state’s reputation as a bastion of military operations.
While Hickenlooper focused on the macro-economic welfare of the state, Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera spoke about development closer to home. He called the Springs’ downtown area the “most interesting neighborhood in the city,” while acknowledging that during the downturn, “some store fronts closed, some moved on, but that’s all part of the cycle.”
Rivera’s strongest assessment of the Springs’ came when he cited the interconnectedness between culture and business. The flower beds, the lights on Tejon, the farmer’s market and the 53 permanent pieces of art on the streets all serve to enhance the identity of the area, he said.
Rivera also recognized three Colorado Springs Police Force officers, who together make-up the Downtown Area Response Team, for working with bar owners in keeping a safe late-night atmosphere.
There were plenty of moments of levity throughout, and Hickenlooper in particular seemed to have finally slipped the leash of the campaign.
“I’d like to ask everyone who plans to run for mayor to stand up,” he said in reference to the newly passed Proposition 300.
Nobody stood, but who knows how many were thinking about it.