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Posted: November 04, 2010

The good news: Colorado has a strong economic outlook

The bad news: we are behind in transportation and support for education

Kelly Brough

The Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation has released its sixth annual Toward a More Competitive Colorado report, a comparison of Colorado's competitive position against the other 49 states. Each year, this report highlights Colorado's strengths and challenge. Here's a summary of key points:

Colorado's Strengths:

•We have a strong economic outlook -- Second in the country
•Colorado has a well-educated workforce -- Second for adults with a bachelor's degree
•We're very lean -- Nation's lowest obesity rate
•We are very entrepreneurial -- No. 3 for venture capital investments and No. 10 for patents granted
•Our cluster approach to economic development is working -- No. 3 for high-tech employment; sixth in clean energy employment; ninth in clean energy job growth; seventh in wind energy generation; and sixth in solar operations

Colorado's Challenges:

•We're not connecting to world markets as effectively as other states -- Fourth-lowest in the country for export dollars per capita
•Transportation funding is very low for Colorado compared to other states -- No. 44 for federal highway funding per capita (2006-2009) and transportation funding represented just 5.3 percent of the state's budget in 2010
•Education is not getting the investment or results that other states are seeing -- Third-lowest in Pre-K resources; No. 26 in public school eighth grade students proficient in reading; Colorado ranks 32nd for high school graduates entering in-state colleges and universities; and we're near the bottom of the 50 states in higher education support, ranking 48th in both public support per full-time student and public support per capita

The good news it that Colorado is in a strong position in terms of economic recovery, high-tech and energy employment and growth in key industries. Yet, we face some significant challenges around transportation funding and large achievement gap at all levels of education. We know that a key factor that makes us strong in terms of our economic outlook today is our highly educated workforce-an edge we won't be able to maintain if we don't turn around our educational outcomes now.

The report solidifies the Chamber's commitment to working with community trustees and leaders to bring about policy changes and solutions that will address these issues. Colorado's business leadership is committed to the goal of maintaining Colorado as a place of innovation that invests in its future workforce, maintains and grows critical infrastructure and continues to remain competitive-not just in national economic landscape, but in the world. We know we have work to do to achieve these goals, but it is work that has a real return the investment.

To read the complete summary or the full Toward a More Competitive Colorado report, please visit the Metro Denver EDC's website.
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Kelly J. Brough is the current president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. She previously served as the chief of staff and deputy chief of staff for Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. She also served as a personnel analyst and a legislative analyst for the City and County of Denver. Kelly has served on a number of boards and commissions, including the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation board. She has a bachelor's degree in sociology and criminal justice from Montana State University and an MBA from the University of Colorado at Denver.

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