Colorado governor hopeful Hickenlooper visits Vail
VAIL, Colorado – Colorado’s Democratic candidate for governor John Hickenlooper spent a rainy Wednesday afternoon in Vail talking about job creation and statewide economic development with local business leaders.
His ideas are straightforward – allow local leaders at every one of the state’s 64 counties create their own ideas for economic development that would then help the state create a statewide plan.
Hickenlooper, who is mayor of Denver, said the idea is to do away with the big minds in a room in Denver coming up with what they think are the answers for economic problems in counties around the state.
“Instead of all the smart people at the top making plans and then publicizing them, this idea takes advantage of the assets we have,” Hickenlooper said.
Hickenlooper is on a statewide tour, meeting with local business and community leaders to talk about his ideas and hear their ideas. He met with Beth Slifer, chair of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Board and business owner; Brian Nolan, school board member and restaurant owner; Pete Hayda, director of sales and marketing for RockResorts Properties and business owner; and Emily Curtis, of Vail Resorts.
The meeting was casual, taking place in a private dining room at the Vail Chophouse. The visit was his third in Eagle County since he began campaigning, said campaign spokesman George Merritt.
Hickenlooper talked about creating a statewide brand through his grassroots idea for statewide economic development. Locals, he said, can present each region’s brand to the state for a more upside down approach to the traditional model of economic development that starts at the top.
“It’s about identifying the priorities for each region,” Merritt said. “It’s about finding the challenges and advantages every county has and feeding that to the state.”
Hickenlooper, who is also owner of Wynkoop Brewing Co., in the lower downtown section of Denver, has plenty of Front Range experience in both business and politics, but what about the High Country?
“Long before I ever thought I would run for governor, I had a strong belief that Denver had a responsibility to the rest of the state,” Hickenlooper said. “The better the rest of the state does, the better Denver does.”
He pointed to the fact that the board of Denver Water, which he appoints as Denver’s mayor, has reduced the region’s per capita water consumption by 20 percent since he’s been mayor.
“That’s Colorado’s water,” Hickenlooper said. “Denver’s dramatic drop in consumption demonstrates that we are active partners. Any solution starts with an ethic of conservation.”
He’s running a campaign touting three main issues – economic development, energy and water.
Job creation, he said, is the next governor’s No. 1 job.
Slifer knows the subject all too well – she’s been spearheading ideas for the town of Vail to capitalize on its summer tourism potential. Tourism is what going to continue to drive the local economy, as well as the state’s, she said.
“Everybody already loves Colorado,” Slifer said. “I think the economic development department in the state has to reach out more.”
Hickenlooper said he has a great record as Denver’s mayor for public outreach. He hates meetings, and said he wants to make sure input gathered during important meetings actually gets used for the state’s benefit.
“I’d like to focus on making sure what we come up with gets put into place,” Hickenlooper said.
One of Slifer’s local ideas is to dedicate a revenue stream for tourism, also known as creating or increasing a tax for that revenue.
“I don’t want to raise taxes,” Hickenlooper quickly replied. “For the next couple of years, no one wants to raise taxes.”
Hickenlooper does want to make sure the state is recognized for being pro-business. He thinks getting that message across will make Colorado more attractive for businesses to start up here or relocate here.
“Pro-business, yet hold to the highest ethical and environmental standards,” Hickenlooper said. “That will help create jobs.”
When asked who he’d prefer to face in the November election, Hickenlooper said it doesn’t matter. He said he just wants to keep his focus on his vision for the state.
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