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Posted: February 01, 2009

State of the state: February

Snapshots of issues affecting Colorado business

Mike Cote

[REAL ESTATE]
Riding out the recession

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Colorado’s resilience in the economic downturn recently caught the attention of the New York Times in a story that used the example of the Spire, a 42-story condo and retail tower under construction in downtown Denver by the Nichols Partnership, as evidence the city still has growth on its mind. “A number of elements are cited as keeping this region afloat as other areas founder: investments in public transportation, aggressive economic development and, most significant, a two-decade campaign to diversify the region’s economic base from oil and gas to alternative energy, aerospace, technology and telecommunications,” the Times said.

Perfect fodder for the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., which spread the word about the story in an e-mail blast. (Tom Clark, the EDC’s vice president, was interviewed for the story.) The Times didn’t quite get it all right, however, getting the birth of the region’s aerospace industry off by a few decades. “After the 1980s recession, the region had a talent pool of unemployed oil and gas engineers. That helped to attract aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin and eventually the Ball Corporation,” the story said. The Martin Co., (later Martin Marietta) has been around metro Denver since the mid-’50s. (It merged with Lockheed to form Lockheed Martin in 1995.) Ball Aerospace & Technologies has been around since 1956, when it was known as the Ball Brothers Research Corp. (Ball Corp., its parent company, moved its headquarters from Muncie, Ind., to Broomfield in 1998.) By the way, NYT, we also make more beer here than anyone else in the U.S., but that’s another story (See next page.) — Mike Cote

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[ENERGY]
Colorado far from tops in conservation

Colorado may be embracing a “new energy” economy, but it’s still old school when it comes to conservation. The state ranks in the middle of the pack for encouraging energy efficiency, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. That means Colorado earned just a pale shade of green in a Time magazine map of the country that illustrated the ranking in January. States that have done a better job adopting energy-efficient policies include California, Oregon, Minnesota – even Texas. That’s reason enough to be green with envy, Coloradans. — Mike Cote

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[RETAIL]
Craft brewers want to keep 3.2 beer in grocery stores

About the last people you’d expect to be championing 3.2 beer are the ones who make the beer you actually like to drink. But Colorado’s 106 licensed craft breweries would be among the losers if lobbyists for grocery and convenience stores can convince legislators to let them sell full-strength beer, said John Carlson, executive director of the Colorado Brewers Guild, in an op-ed column published last month in the Denver Post. “Colorado craft brewers thrive because independent liquor stores offer them vital access to market,” Carlson said. “This access has helped create a beer oasis in Colorado, while providing variety and competitive prices for Colorado beer lovers.”

The proposed grocery store bill might put many smaller brewers out of business because they wouldn’t be able to compete for shelf space at big-box retailers, Carlson said. During a legislative preview in January hosted by the law firm Greenberg Traurig, Senate and House leaders spoke brefly about the proposal before dismissing it as something less than pressing – they expect it will get a lot of attention, but they’re more worried about creating jobs in a stalled economy. Senate President Peter Groff said he was concerned about the potential increased competition to small stores. “As a teetotaler, I’m not really sure I care, but I am concerned about the small mom-and-pop shops that struggled with our decision last year to go to Sunday sales,” said Groff, referring to the bill that allowed liquor stores to begin opening on Sundays last July.  — Mike Cote

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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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