Keep climbing, Denver.
Innovation long has been a hallmark of the economies in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado. Familiar names such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Google, Level 3, Twitter and hundreds of others have helped create a culture of innovation throughout the region.
In recent years, however, that culture has expanded its reach, with Denver attracting hundreds of high-tech companies and developing a national reputation for innovation all on its own, a phenomenon highlighted in this edition of BizWest, highlighting the Innovation Economy.
But what does Denver’s emergence mean for Boulder, Broomfield, Longmont, Fort Collins, Greeley and other centers of innovation? Is Denver a rival or a partner in this new Innovation Economy?
The answer, likely, is both. Boulder-grown companies such as Sendgrid have relocated to Denver, while others have opened offices there. Denver will remain an increasingly viable option for companies seeking a large-metro marquee as their corporate headquarters. Many companies in Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer or Weld counties eye Denver’s larger workforce and urban lifestyle as keys for attracting skilled, younger workers, hence the decision by some to relocate there. They’re also attracted by many more options for office space.
At the same time, Denver’s presence as a large metropolitan area provides great advantages for cities to the north. Boulder would not be the innovation center that it is were it not for the presence of Denver, including Denver International Airport.
High-tech companies in communities from Broomfield north know that they can attract skilled workers from Denver, just as areas such as Weld County provide more-affordable housing options for workers in the Mile High City.
Similarly, Boulder and Fort Collins — with the presence of the University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University and dozens of federal laboratories — serve as incubators and economic engines for the entire state. Denver would not enjoy the startup boom that it does were it not for such advantages.
As out-of-state companies such as Amazon seek options for new headquarters locations, it’s important for all to remember that no community exists in a bubble. Boulder and Fort Collins are as dependent on Denver as Denver is on Colorado’s university communities.
Denver’s rise as a center of innovation in its own right is a cause for celebration, not trepidation, among leaders throughout the state. Here’s hoping that governmental and economic-development leaders understand that co-dependency so that each city finds its own niche in the Innovation Economy.