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State of the state: Executives



In early August, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce picked a replacement for outgoing CEO and president Joe Blake, who recently joined Colorado State University as chancellor. But new chamber leader Kelly Brough didn’t take the helm right away.

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Brough, who edged out chamber vice president and economic chief Tom Clark for the job, won’t be joining the seven-county business group until Oct. 1. As chief of staff for the city and county of Denver, Brough wasn’t about to leave Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper in the lurch as the city wrestles with budget issues, including $120 million in proposed cuts.

Question: How will this job compare to what you’ll be doing for the chamber?

Answer: I probably won’t have those kinds of budget issues, at that level or intensity. But there’s a lot of similarity. What I spend my days seeing is the interaction of public and private and how much of our lives connect. If my sales tax figures are down then that means business did not have a good month either. And when we make public policy, it impacts business success. I’ll just see that now from the other side of the table, and I’ll get to help business figure out how you keep improving that environment in our current economy.

Q. What drew you to step out of public service to work in the private sector?

A. Opportunities like this allow you to be civically engaged on issues that are probably the most critical of our time right now. … It’s hard to pass up the chance to jump in and try to make a difference.

Q. Tell us about the chamber’s role as a regional entity.

A. I think the chamber has such success in terms of realizing that it really is a regional strategy that makes us strong when we’re trying to address our economic challenges or just build a strong economy. And I think our history has proven that. I think you’re going to see us have that continued emphasis. What’s good for the region is good for all of us. It’s not about divide and conquer or competition. It’s really about collaboration and having success together.

Q. What business sectors would you like to see the city and state get a better grip on?

A. There’s no question that new energy is an opportunity we’re all looking at. I think the governor has framed it well. The chamber has positioned us very well. But we also have biotech, which is very strong, and IT (information technology). And I think we underestimate some of our finance here, our banking industry and some of the opportunities there. What’s most important is all of us focusing on strategies that really keep building those. Regional is the key.

Watch a two-part interview with Kelly Brough at cobizmag.com on the Executive Edge channel.


   – MIKE COTE

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