J. Adrian Stanley
Hickenlooper has ideas to improve the Springs' economy.
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s keynote address at the Antlers Hilton Hotel today focused on the economy, and ways the city can cooperate with the state to improve it.
“Pretty much in every national ranking Colorado is in the top two or three for job growth, business-friendly climate, regulatory environment, tax base — go down the list,” he said.
Hickenlooper noted that one of his first moves when he was elected to his first term was to have every state agency review its regulations. Over 13,000 regulations have been examined, and over half have been amended or eliminated. That has helped grow jobs, he says. But he noted Colorado Springs hasn’t seen as much of that growth — something he wants to address.
“We’re only strong when we are all strong,” he said.
While the state has recovered more quickly than Colorado Springs, Hickenlooper noted that the Springs is nevertheless performing better than many Western cities. A recent study by the Brookings Institute and the University of Nevada, he said, found that Colorado Springs posted the largest quarterly drop in unemployment in the country in the last quarter of 2014. Our unemployment rate, which stood at 5.1 percent in November, is also better than much of the nation. (Though not as good as the state’s which fell to 4 percent in December.)
What’s more, another study recently named Colorado Springs one of the top 10 cities for tech startups — it was one of four Colorado cities to rank. Between 1990 and 2010, Colorado Springs tech start-up activity doubled, Hickenlooper said. Other growth areas in the Springs include creative industries, exports and aerospace. He also noted that our high-end hotels are attractive for conferences, including a North American summit that he is hoping to bring to Colorado Springs.
The governor said the state was recently given a grant to advance research and technology in defense and aerospace, which could boost small and medium-sized businesses and create jobs in the Springs. He said the state is also looking at BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment), which could close or downsize Colorado military bases like Fort Carson. The governor’s office will lobby the general assembly to pass legislation addressing the BRAC, and has created a support office in hopes of keeping our bases intact.
The governor also had several ideas for growing the economy. For instance, he’d like to subsidize health insurance and office space with high-speed Internet for young workers. He’d then market the program near colleges, especially on the coasts, in hopes it would appeal to Millennials who are interested in being free agents rather than working for a large company. Such a program would be offered in conjunction with the city.
He also wants to offer free skills training to newly-hired workers who have been unemployed more than six months. That program would hopefully encourage businesses to hire long-term unemployed people. Hickenlooper said he would need the city’s partnership on the initiative and would have more information in a few weeks.
“We want to reach out to reach to businesses and say if you’re going to hire 10 people this year, we’d like one of them to be someone who’s been unemployed for more than six months.” he said.
On a side note, the governor said he was working to protect open spaces as the state continues to grow at a fast pace. He said he would like to work with the Springs to finish the Ring the Peak trail, and also connect long bike trails, including one that would stretch from Wyoming to New Mexico.
In closing, the governor said he hoped for cooperation from the legislature on divisive issues like fiscal constraints, highway infrastructure, oil and gas, and testing in schools. On the last, Hickenlooper said he was supportive of less testing, but that we need “rigorous” standardized tests of some kind. He said he believed the legislature was ready for compromise on many issues, and he that compromise will benefit the state.
“The bottom line is government’s got to work,” he said.