"I know he'd be a poor man if he never saw an eagle fly, Rocky Mountain high, the Colorado Rocky Mountain high, I've seen it raining fire in the sky." - John Denver, lyrics to Rocky Mountain High
How do you turn a land-locked state into a center for international business? Apparently, the State of Colorado has figured it out. Obviously, Colorado does not have a single seaport and its median elevation of 6,800 feet makes truck freight a little more expensive. Plus, Colorado only has a population of approximately 5.3 million people. Yet, Colorado has carved out a competitive advantage in the post-Great Rescission economy that is undeniable.
According to Colorado's Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Colorado's exports of manufactured, agricultural and mineral products increased 6.3% in 2013 compared to 2012, growing from $8.2 billion to $8.6 billion. Over the last four years Colorado's exports have consistently increased. From 2009 to 2013, total exports of products increased by 45%! As of 2013, Canada and Mexico continue to be Colorado's top two markets, a trend that started back in 2003. In addition to international trade, Colorado has become a more desirable place to live and work:
- Business Insider named Colorado the most economically competitive state in 2015.
- Forbes declared Denver to be the best city for job seekers and the best place to do business in 2015.
- The Pew Research Center ranked Denver as the most popular place for U.S. citizens to move in 2014.
- MSN Real Estate reported that Boulder was the strongest real estate market in the United States in 2014.
According to Richard Wobbekind of the University of Colorado's Leeds School of Business, Colorado's economy will continue to expand in 2015 by adding a variety of jobs in almost every business sector. "Not only is the state's economy solidly in positive territory, but it is ranking in the top five nationally for population growth, employment growth, wage and salary growth and personal income growth," said Wobbekind at the the 50th annual Colorado Business Economic Outlook. He expects 61,300 jobs to be added in 2015 in Colorado, slightly less than the 72,900 jobs added in 2014. "With a skilled workforce, a high-tech, diversified economy, relatively low cost of doing business, global economic access and exceptional quality of life, Colorado is poised for both short- and long-term economic growth," Wobbekind said. Here are some examples of how Colorado achieved these accolades by competing in every sector:
- Advanced Industries Export Accelerator Program: Colorado's advanced industries include aerospace, advanced manufacturing, biosciences, electronics, energy, infrastructure engineering, and technology. The economic impact of these industries accounts for nearly 30% of Colorado's wage earnings, nearly 30% of the total sales revenues across all industries within the state, and nearly 35% of the state's total exports. Therefore, in order to enhance these industries, the State of Colorado has created an Advanced Industries Export Accelerator Program which provides export grants, a network of global consultants to facilitate market entry, and export training programs.
- Foreign Direct Investment: According to a factsheet provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce Select USA initiative, majority owned U.S. affiliates of foreign firms now employ approximately 83,600 workers in Colorado. For example, Panasonic Japan announced in 2014 that it will open a business solutions operations and technology center to manufacture audio and visual equipment in the city of Denver. Upon completion, the $111.6 million investment is expected to create 300 new jobs.
- International Tourism: Colorado's Governor, John Hickenlooper, has stated that, "Colorado has an unparalleled visitor experience and we welcome guests from around the world.” According to the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Travel and Tourism Office, Colorado welcomed 384,000 visitors from abroad in 2013 and 447,000 visitors in 2014 for an annual increase of 16%. Colorado has taken the initiative to promote itself to a global market by making its official tourism website available in multiple languages.
- Technology: The Denver Post reported that Google is planning on tripling its office space and potentially quintupling its number of employees at its office in Boulder to 1,500 Googlers. Scott Green, the director of Google's Boulder operations said that "Historically, we've grown at a fairly rapid clip. We've had great success at attracting good talent in Boulder, and we don't want the space to be a constraint....The community supports things Google supports." Governor Hickenlooper said he was proud to see local growth of what he described as "one of the most innovative companies in the world."
- Urban Planning: Richard Florida, the author of The Rise of the Creative Class, said that "Denver is incubating its own urban center revival." Florida described Denver's economies of scale at the 2014 Denver Downtown Partnership. Specifically, factors such as car sharing, living closer to work to avoid wasting time and resources on long commutes, and not having to support a large suburban house and yard. According to Florida’s “Global Creative Index,” 30% of Denver’s workers belonged to this “creative class” while Boulder ranked No. 1, with 45%.