An initiative to facilitate conversations and research about growth in our region
Planning and economic development experts from around the region joined forces in the fourth joint meeting of CU Denver CityCenter’s Imagine a Great Region initiative and DRCOG’s Metro Vision Idea Exchange series on Jan. 9, 2020. The meeting, entitled “Inclusive Economic Development for the Greater Denver Region,” brought more than 40 stakeholders representing more than 20 organizations together to collectively examine socioeconomic disparities and opportunities for inclusive economic growth in the region.
Researchers from CU Denver are working with economic development policy experts from the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce under the joint Prosper Colorado initiative to understand the full story of Denver’s economic growth. While in many respects the Denver region has had enviable economic success compared to peer metropolitan areas nationwide, not everyone in the region has enjoyed the same levels of opportunity. Prosper CO unites numerous stakeholders alongside the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Leadership Foundation, the Metro Denver EDC, CU Denver and the Brookings Institution to address economic inequality in Colorado.
In their presentation, Joe Parilla and Ryan Donahue of Brookings spoke about the project’s latest findings. Mr. Parilla first discussed Metro Denver’s economic strengths. Since 2007, Denver has been the only metro area nationwide to see improvements in growth, prosperity, inclusion, and inclusion by race. However, he went on to explore findings on who is still excluded, why they continue to be left behind, and the costs to the region’s economy. There remain serious disparities in who possess good, well-paying jobs with benefits and who can start businesses along racial, gender, and other demographic lines. These inequities persist because the Denver region isn’t creating enough good jobs and businesses and preparing all citizens adequately for the job market, residents can’t access quality jobs due to the region’s land use and transportation patterns, and some groups continue to be held back by intergenerational wealth gaps and social biases.
The costs of exclusion hurt not just those left behind, but Denver’s economy as a whole. Factors like missed job creation, missed business growth, missed earnings, and the cost of turnover impose billions of dollars of losses to the regional economy. Mr. Donahue stressed the implications of this research – that all of the stakeholders present, from different sectors, geographies, industries, and perspectives – will need to use their collective brainpower to create strategies to close the gaps.
While the presenters began the conversation on how to solve these disparities – by creating quality jobs, ensuring education and job training for all groups, connecting housing to jobs via transit, reducing health care and child care costs, and eliminating discriminatory hiring and pay practices – the audience will carry on that conversation after this research is complete. At the event, attendees launched into discussion about strategies like retaining homegrown talent, recruiting outside talent, promoting inclusive hiring practices in private industry, and more. Prosper Colorado will hopefully ignite a wave of regional effort to support all Coloradans in their pursuit of economic opportunity.