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Posted: June 01, 2008

State of the State: June

Economic development; aviation and energy

Bob Kretschman

Economic development
Delta lands award for business and job growth

Years of chipping away at the problem of low wages in Delta County has earned the area the 2007 Small Community Award from the Economic Development Council of Colorado. The honor was given in April.

"It acknowledges we’ve been doing the right thing in moving the community forward," said Deana Sheriff, executive director of Delta Area Development Inc., the area’s 12-year-old nonprofit economic development organization.

In the past five years, the county has attracted about 45 new businesses, ranging from an oil rig manufacturer to a distillery. The new companies generally bring with them five to 25 new jobs. At the same time, many existing businesses have expanded and added higher-paying jobs for local residents, Sheriff said.

Delta Area Development Inc.’s mission is to help create or attract primary jobs that raise the average wage of the area’s workers, said the organization’s president, Kelly Cox. As wages rise, Delta County families have more disposable income, and those dollars find their way into the local economy, he said. The effort appears to be working: Sheriff said the Delta area’s average household income is just over $25,000 per year, and the average wage of new jobs in the county is $38,000.

The latest recruit to join the ranks of Delta County employers is a new plant under construction by West Virginia-based Phillips Machine, which Sheriff said is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of mining equipment.

"Delta County is conveniently centered around a lot of mines and mineral extraction," she said. Phillips expects to hire about 35 people at its Delta location in the next two years.

Delta Area Development also connected two local manufacturers and brought back jobs from overseas.

ShadeScapes USA, a Paonia-based maker of high-end canopy systems, was having its products built outside the United States. Sheriff said she hooked ShadeScapes up with Olathe-based Colorado Custom Sewing and Manufacturing, and now ShadeScapes’ products are built in Olathe. The result was about five additional jobs in Olathe.

"We try to make those connections in the buyer-supplier network," she said. --By Bob Kretschman

World Trade Day — Energy
Peak oil drives need for renewables

We’re not running out of oil. It’s just getting hard to get it out of the ground.

"That’s always the red herring that is thrown out at us," says Steve Andrews, a Denver-based energy consultant and co-founder of the nonprofit Association for the Study of Peak Oil. "Peak oil is about the rates of production."

Andrews gave his "bad cop" speech during a World Trade Day panel talk on renewable energy.

We’ve probably consumed two-thirds of the world’s supply of oil, he said, using an example of a six pack of beer, four cans empty, to drive home his point. But to drink those last two beers, you’d have to use a pretty skinny straw, he said.

Six of the world’s 21 oil-producing countries have reached their peak and are in decline, he said. When half of them are in decline, the world’s growth in petroleum production will be over, something some experts say could happen as early as 2010.

Andrews, who lives with his wife in an off-the-grid, low-energy home in the Rockies near Westcliff, said renewables must be a part of our energy future. He’d be happy for now if they could at least make up for new demands.

"I hear about holidays for gasoline taxes," says Anderson, a veteran of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden. "These are not serious answers to the problems that we face." --By Mike Cote

World Trade Day — Aviation
DIA aims for nonstop flights to Tokyo

Denver International Airport may be the fifth busiest nationwide and the 11th busiest in the world, but just a small fraction of its passenger traffic is from the international market.

DIA serves more than 150 destinations nonstop, but its overseas offerings are limited to London, Frankfort and Munich. Airport officials hope to extend that reach to Tokyo by 2011, Deputy Manager Laura Jackson said at an aviaton/aerospace panel as part of World Trade Day 2008 in Denver in May.

"Tokyo is Denver’s largest market in Asia," said Jackson, who outlined the airport’s "Ascent to Asia" campaign to secure a nonstop flight to Tokyo. The city attracts more first-class and business travel from DIA than any other market in Asia, she said.

Jackson tempered her comments by adding that the market needs to support United’s recently added nonstop flights to London, and that the addition of nonstop flights to other overseas destinations will be gradual.

She also alluded to the turmoil in the industry, including the recent filing of Frontier Airlines for bankruptcy protection and oil costs soaring to $120 a barrel. The title of her first slide was headlined, "Bankruptcies, mergers and fuel costs ... oh, my!"

"I think we’re going to see some changes in the future in capacity and prices," she said. "All this will affect Denver in some way." --By Mike Cote

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Bob Kretschman is the Western Slope correspondent for ColoradoBiz.

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