Economy & Economic Development  September 8, 2023

Tidmore: Constant innovation is the key to Jefferson County’s success

Jefferson County doesn’t fit neatly into a box. For decades, we have been home to a diverse terrain, population, and business community, which has, in turn, gifted us with an entrepreneurial spirit that forces us to constantly push boundaries, reinvent ourselves, and embrace technological innovation.

If you were to drive from the county’s eastern edge in Metro Denver to the towns, such as Kitteridge, that dot the foothills of the Rockies, you may feel like you are in another state altogether. The woman standing behind you in line at the coffee shop could be an engineer testing nuclear-powered spacecraft at Lockheed Martin or she could be a distiller at Golden Moon. This lack of uniformity means that our local businesses are buzzing with individuals who approach problems in different ways and leverage technological advancements to give their respective operations a leg up on their competition. 

Many people immediately associate our region’s tech prowess with our prolific aerospace and defense sector. Who could blame them? Colorado is home to the second-largest aerospace economy, and the concentration of aerospace jobs in Jefferson County is four times the national average. However, the rocket scientists aren’t the only ones having all the fun.

Jefferson County’s advanced manufacturing industry, one of the county’s largest and fastest-growing industries, is deploying new technologies to tackle everything from optimizing chew toys for our four-legged friends to brewing the best beer in the world. For example, in Littleton and Golden, Codi Manufacturing is developing the latest automated package handling solutions to revolutionize how the beverage industry bottles and cans our favorite beers, seltzers, coffees, and more. 

In our county’s energy sector, Xcel Energy is deploying cutting-edge technology to remotely inspect grid assets to help identify defects across our electricity distribution system. Xcel is working with tech firms to enable AI-assisted virtual inspection, in which images of grid infrastructure are taken by helicopters and unmanned aircraft systems and uploaded into a program where they are analyzed using AI models to detect weaknesses in the grid. Far from replacing human roles, the technology sifts through the data to pick out potential defects and passes them along to professional inspectors to validate the findings, allowing these individuals to focus their time on more pressing tasks.

These are just a few examples of the groundbreaking technological applications Jefferson County stakeholders are championing in their respective industries. While these innovations are paving the way for increased efficiency, safety, and regional competitiveness, there are roadblocks that we must take care to avoid. Counterproductive efforts by our elected officials, such as lawsuits that would have a chilling impact on tech innovation and investment, could hamper Colorado’s progress toward dominating the industries of tomorrow. That’s a risk we simply cannot afford to take.

Jefferson County’s extraordinary attributes act as a feedback loop, cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs and game changing businesses. We should celebrate this unique advantage and do everything we can to empower our region’s business community to embrace and improve upon the latest technological advancements. We should also set aside divisive efforts that would only serve to impair our tech dominance.

Jansen Tidmore serves as the president and CEO of the Jeffco EDC, which includes the West Metro Chamber and Leadership Jeffco. With the belief that the cornerstone of a healthy community is access to quality jobs – we are nurturing that job creation.  

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