So today, “It’s our Nature.” Over the past 10 years, we’ve been “Colorful as Colorado,” been asked to “Advance Colorado” and reminded we’re “In a Place Called Colorado.” What we’re not, apparently, is certain who we are.
It’s the prerogative of each governor’s administration to put its own stamp on marketing the state, so this won’t be the last new logo and marketing slogan we see. And aside from the high entertainment value, the now-frequent exercise to improve our image is not a trivial one.
Tourism dollars hang in the balance and, more importantly, Colorado’s in a national race to attract business, investment dollars and the human capital required to grow the economy. Gov. John Hickenlooper and Kenneth Lund, the state’s chief economic officer, fully understand what’s at stake.
“Relentlessly pro-business” is a favorite slogan. It aptly describes their ambition.
But whether you liked the logo or not, the now-frequent process to remake Colorado’s image is more unsettling than the results. Opinions are subjective, but the cost and bureaucracy it now requires to manage our image is objectively massive.
Colorado invested nearly $1 million to develop the “Nature” campaign, significantly more if you consider the in-kind, non-paid investments from dozens of people and companies.
Contrast this with a single piece of legislation that holds real promise to impact the economy in tangible ways. HB13-1165, “career pathway” legislation <http://www.statebillinfo.com/bills/bills/13/1165_01.pdf> designed to help train a new generation of workers for Colorado’s growing manufacturing sector, allocated $1 million to bring together higher education and industry to develop additional curriculum that better reflects the needs of employers, now and in the future. A recent CompanyWeek magazine profile again reflected the acute workforce issues facing Colorado business — and small business are particularly vulnerable.
Is $1 million a lot? It’s safe to say the interests advocating HB-1165 were mildly shocked that any money was allocated at all, given the adversarial tone in Colorado’s state house.
Even then, consider the outcome: More was invested to remake our state logo than allocated to better align our workforce in support of manufacturing, a sector starving for qualified employees.
Others have noted the crazy fees we seem hard-wired to pay for things like logo development. I had a similar reaction to the University of Colorado’s $750,000 or so investment last year. But the investment-to-attract-investment ecosystem is a multi-million-dollar business — and getting bigger. In Colorado and elsewhere, economic development is a bureaucracy to envy, one that with each new administration gets larger, more complex, expensive and increasingly adept at self-preservation.
In Colorado and elsewhere, economic development is a bureaucracy to envy.
Against this backdrop consider the realities of the Colorado economy, that a vast majority of companies in the state are small businesses – and getting smaller, according to the state’s latest reporting. Or that despite the nuance and subjectivity that informs things like brand development, small-business challenges here are stunningly straightforward: money, always; workforce, increasingly; and knowledge.
It’s inconceivable to many small businesses that the state would invest millions to create fleeting, temporal trademarks and slogans, when pressing issues go unfunded; or that as the “investment” bureaucracy grows, small business may be pushed farther away from where money is being spent.
Less bureaucracy and fewer million-dollar brand makeovers may represent progress instead.
Bart Taylor is founder/publisher of CompanyWeek, a digital publication focusing on Colorado’s maker and manufacturing economy. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.companyweek.com.