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Posted: September 01, 2011

Cote’s Colorado: No place like home, but how about those Red Sox?

Denver business and community leaders
aim to extract secrets from Boston

Mike Cote

 

Hey, fellow LEX travelers. What did you think of Boston?

Are you going to miss the feel of moisture beading on your skin?

How many miles will you have to trek along Cherry Creek to work off those Dunkin' Donuts?

How did it feel to visit the home of the team that pummeled our mighty Rockies in the 2007 World Series and look CEO Larry Lucchino in the eye?
What are you going to tell your colleagues when you return? Yes, we have more sun - light years of it - but Beantown has plenty going on. What can we steal?

We don't want to bring home the high taxes - folks in my native New Hampshire call their neighbor "Taxachusetts" - and we'd have a hard time creating a fishing industry (fried clams and lobster rolls!) But what about the city's heritage-rich education industry, its booming health-care, IT and finance sectors and its burgeoning arts culture?

As Bruce Springsteen sang a few years ago: "We're living in the future. None of this has happened yet."

As I write this, the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation is busy coordinating an itinerary for 150 business leaders for a three-day trek to Boston this month. Fast forward to the trip's end and some of them might be reading this magazine on the way back home or at least using it as a coaster for their in-flight beverage.

For the second year, ColoradoBiz is serving as media sponsor, which means I get to visit the city that petrified me as a teenage driver - take the wrong highway exit and you may have to drive 25 miles to find your way back - and mingle with CEOs, business owners, educators and politicos.

Maureen McDonald, who as executive director of the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation has been planning these trips for more than a decade, expects this year's trip theme to center around learning and innovation as Denver delegates hear more about a community that highly values education.

"Health care and education is really the backbone of their economy," McDonald said. "What is so exciting is this environment of deep conviction that education matters and that education is worth investing in, that it creates a space where innovation happens. Bostonians are proud of the fact that the first public school in the country was founded there, that the first university in the country was founded there."

Business leaders may also walk away a tad jealous of Kendall Square, home to more than 150 biotech and information technology companies, including Amgen, the California biotech giant that also has a significant presence in Boulder and Longmont. Denver would love to have such a jewel at the Fitzsimons campus of the University of Colorado Health Science Center, McDonald said.

"They are just busting at the seams, it's tiny - about the size of Larimer Square times two - but it packs such a power punch in terms of who is on that campus and all the R&D that is happening there," she said.

The city's highly educated work force has helped keep that campus humming.

"Even though Genzyme got bought out by Sanofi, they still do a lot of their R&D in Boston metro area because they can hire the minds they need," McDonald said. "The intellectual capital is there."

The other kind of capital is more plentiful there, too: Boston is rivaled only by Silicon Valley in per capita venture capital investment, a boon for startup companies that spin out of those Kendall Square campus companies.

In the second quarter of 2011, venture capital in Massachusetts rose to $1.29 billion on 94 deals, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. That represented a stronger quarter for venture capital in the state since at least 2007, the data showed. Two of the three biggest deals were drug-related companies.

Among the scheduled presenters during the chamber trip is the founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, whose products include an upstart drug that combats hepatitis C.

"We will be hearing from a couple of entrepreneurs who have made it really, really big," McDonald said.
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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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