Vail, Colorado – October 17-19 – The Economic Development Council of Colorado (EDCC) hosted its annual Drive|Lead|Succeed Conference in Vail, last week. Representatives from economic development organizations from across the state, elected officials, and local business leaders, gathered at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, for a three-day conference aimed at providing the knowledge, tools, and connections necessary to foster a growing Colorado economy.
Inspired by the theme “back to basics,” this three-day conference, presented by Xcel Energy, focused on leveraging Colorado’s community’s assets to position them for successful, sustainable, and responsible economic development. Presentations were made on the economic impact of two rapidly-changing industries – unmanned air systems and energy. Attendees also heard presentations on talent development, attraction, and retention; as well as water – a valuable and declining resource and how economic developers can lead our communities in responsible development around this precious resource.
Unmanned Air Systems (UAS): With the emerging economic potential of Unmanned Air Systems (UAS), leaders in the industry discussed how large and small communities can benefit from this growing industry. According to Consumer Technology Association, “U.S. drone sales are expected to top 2.4 million aircraft this year .” In an economic impact study done by AUVSI in March 2013, in the first three years of UAS integration in the U.S., the industry is expected to create 70,000 jobs and have a $13.6 billion economic impact. By 2025 its expected job growth will increase to 100,000 with an $82 billion economic impact. Colorado is poised to be a leader in this industry with its high concentration of aerospace companies delivering space-related products and services. The UAS industry impacts many industries here in Colorado including agriculture, forestry, law enforcement, search and rescue operations, real estate and more. As economic developers we need to ensure the success of this industry by nurturing its growth through policy development, access to capital, and meeting its workforce demands.
Energy: The energy market is evolving. Key drivers of energy demand are changing, creating a very different energy future than what we’re familiar with today. These changes present significant challenges to our energy suppliers and producers. Representatives from Xcel Energy and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, discussed the importance of economic development officials and local leader’s involvement, in helping communities and businesses make the transition into new forms of energy output. Xcel Energy is looking into “Our Energy Future,” and how energy consumers can choose their energy sources and how they will use it. “While the electric grid has been a trusted backbone to our community and has reliably powered our homes and businesses. It has also evolved into a platform to provide growth for emerging technologies, products, and services which have contributed to new industry development, job growth, and innovation,” said Rob Osborn, director of strategic revenue initiatives. With state and federal regulations and cheap natural gas helping drive utilities to reduce their reliance on coal power, Tri-State is working closely with Craig and Montrose Counties to find good ways to use the properties that are being affected. “We really rely on local elected officials and economic development officials to tell us what they need and how we can contribute,” said Drew Kramer, senior external affairs adviser with Tri-State.
Talent Development, Attraction, & Retention: Colorado’s businesses are facing a growing and costly problem in finding, training, and retaining critical skilled talent. “By 2020 the projected hiring and training costs for skilled roles will increase by 21 percent, says Noel Ginsburg, CEO of CareerWise Colorado. “The inability to fill critical roles costs Colorado ~$300 million in annual GDP.” CareerWise Colorado is a state led initiative building sustainable, customized talent pipelines for businesses, through multi-year youth apprenticeships that prepare students for high demand occupations. Stephanie Veck, director for Colorado Workforce Development Council said last Tuesday, “Businesses, economic development organizations, secondary and higher education, and workforce development have to work together to build a robust talent pipeline for Colorado’s future success.”
Infrastructure – Water: Lastly, James Eklund, director for the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Elizabeth Garner, the state’s demographer, Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), led a panel discussion with water stakeholders from around the state, on the growing concern of our increasing population and the depletion of Colorado’s finite water resource. Colorado has finalized a state water plan designed to meet the growing population. Increased conservation and additional water storage are some of the measures the plan addresses. “With the growing municipal and industrial (M&I) needs of water, 700,000 acres of irrigated land could dry up by 2050, 35 percent of that would be in the South Platte Basin alone.” Robert Sakata from Sakata farms explained. “Water is also considered a cost-of-living and amenity that can influence the future of migration to the State,” Garner pointed out, “how much are people going to want to pay for water?” Availability of water remains an initial question that businesses ask as they look to expand or relocate. Steve Sims, a water attorney from Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck concluded, “Having a predictable water supply and water supply entitlement process is a big plus for recruiting new development.”
Event supporters included:
Title: Xcel Energy
Platinum: Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck
Gold: Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), Metro Denver EDC
Silver: Town of Parker, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Upstate Colorado Economic Development, City of Westminster, Colorado Workforce Development Council, Colorado Companies to Watch
Eco Devo Partner: Adams County EDA, Arvada EDA, Brighton EDC, Castle Rock EDC, City of Centennial, City of Thornton, Colorado Housing and Finance Association, Colorado Lending Source, Comcast, Denver South EDP, Denver Office of Economic Development, Town of Gypsum, Lakewood Economic Development, Town of Vail
Eco Devo Supporter: Beck, CSU Office of Engagement, Development Research Partners, City of Ft. Collins, NMPP Energy, Northern Colorado Economic Development Alliance
Media Sponsor: Colorado Real Estate Journal