DENVER – Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce keynote speech as prepared:
August 2, 2012
Colorado Ballroom, Denver Marriott City Center
Thank you for the kind introduction and thank you for the invitation to speak with you today.
One year ago, just a few days into office, I stood before you humbled and honored to be your new mayor. I told you that in the year ahead we would face many challenges, and we have.
From a roller coaster economy to record-setting wildfires and of course to the tragic shootings in Aurora, we have certainly been tested.
But trying times bring us together. They bring out our best. They remind us that we are all in this together. Please join me in honoring Mayor Steve Hogan and all of Aurora for their heroism, courage and strength. We stand with you now and always.
Standing together is the Colorado way. It is how we do things across the entire metro region and throughout the entire state.
It is why I stood with businesses earlier this year to enact the unauthorized camping ordinance. It is why I stood with you last November to oppose Initiative 300. It is why we stood together and worked to secure a new U.S. Patent Office. And it is why I stand with you today to report that the state of our city is strong, stable and growing.
By standing together, with a shared sense of determination and collaboration, we are emerging from this recession as a vibrant, world-class region that is attracting new residents, businesses and visitors.
Our real estate market is making a comeback. The region’s job growth is one of the strongest in the nation. Denver had its best tourism year ever, bringing in a record $3.3 billion. And we are one of the top cities in which to build your business.
But you know as well as I know that times are still tough and we have hard work ahead of us. But we are making significant progress.
We are building a stronger relationship between residents and police officers by changing the culture inside the Denver Police Department; by appointing a new police chief and new leadership, by moving officers out of the office and into neighborhoods, by flattening DPD’s command structure, and by speeding up the disciplinary process.
Just as importantly, we are making great strides when it comes to our children. I know education and workforce development are among this Chamber’s top priorities. Mine, too.
Thank you to Kelly Brough for serving on the Denver Education Compact’s executive committee. The Compact is convening Denver’s top business, higher education and nonprofit leaders with the city and school district to accelerate progress in classrooms throughout Denver.
With more than half of Denver’s third-graders not reading at grade level, the Compact has set its sights on eliminating the achievement gap before it begins. The Compact’s first goal is for at least 90 percent of Denver Public Schools third-graders to be reading at grade level by 2020.
While much of the responsibility for educating our children lies with DPS, supporting our children from cradle to career is something we all must own and work together to improve.
Speaking of support, let’s talk about customer service. I have spent the past year looking for new and smarter ways to leverage technology to better support you and your businesses.
Just last week, we launched a new Development Services website to help customers quickly and smoothly navigate their projects through City Hall. On this site they will find predictable answers and not random obstacles.
We are creating new tools that will allow businesses to file taxes online; new tools that will allow businesses to submit and obtain building permits online; new tools that are simply making it easier to do business with the city. Now that’s smart business. That’s a smart city.
We are also working harder than ever to expand and diversify Denver’s economic base. Because a smart city and a smart region need a broad-based economy in order to thrive.
I heard the business community loud and clear when you said you needed increased access to capital to survive and grow out of this recession.
Just as we promised in our JumpStart 2012 economic development plan, we have made strategic investments in Denver’s local businesses and neighborhoods, helping to retain and create jobs even in these tough times. Thank you, Paul Washington, our Director of Economic Development, for turning those plans into a reality.
Since I took office, through aggressive outreach campaigns, Denver has recruited and retained six major firms, adding and keeping more than 1,500 jobs in Denver. I am talking about companies such as SCL Health Systems, with a new headquarters in downtown, and a new Southwest Airlines Pilot Base at Denver International Airport.
Over the past year, the City of Denver invested nearly $2 million in small businesses through our gap financing programs. I am talking about small businesses like Intertech Plastics, a manufacturing company that, thanks to financial support from the city, is hiring more than 20 new employees during this recession.
These kinds of targeted, smart investments are helping to grow the metro area’s small and local businesses, building strong commerce in every neighborhood. We are going to enhance these public-private partnerships with Peak Enterprise, a new business toolkit to help businesses compete and succeed.
One of the tools in this new toolkit is a business plan competition launched two weeks ago. Start-up and early-stage businesses are given the opportunity to compete for new office space, marketing, social media and accounting services, plus $50,000 in donated dollars.
We are also hosting our first-ever venture capital roundtable on Aug. 10th. Investors from throughout the U.S. are coming to Denver to meet local entrepreneurs, institutional investors and large company chief information officers. This roundtable, and others that are already in the planning stages, will showcase recent successes and help build a strong relationship among the city, our business community and national venture capital firms.
Later this year, in partnership with traditional and micro lenders, we will launch a multimillion dollar fund to support local businesses and development projects. We will focus on attracting financial support from national foundations and banks, which we will in turn invest in some of Denver’s most promising yet disenfranchised neighborhoods.
And to help small business owners identify sources of new capital, we will be publishing a database of all investors and lenders to Colorado-based companies over the past five years.
We are reshaping what it means to be a 21st century city, a 21st century metro region, by leveraging our assets and working together.
The new U.S. Patent Office will bring an estimated $440 million economic benefit to the metro area. This hard-earned success, a model of collaboration, will help expand Colorado’s high-tech sectors and grow a global economy built for the 21st century.
There is so much opportunity for economic growth that I think we sometimes forget how fortunate we really are.
Together, we are building corridors of opportunity from the metro region to the rest of the world. New international flights to Tokyo and Iceland are opening our doors to new markets in Asia and Europe and we are looking at even more new opportunities in Central and South America. Thank you to United Airlines and the leadership of Tom Clark, Kim Day and so many others.
Together, we are beginning to tap the boundless potential of our $22 billion-a-year international airport.
Did you all see that amazing model of our new South Terminal hotel project when you walked in? Progress is well underway on what will be the largest construction project in Denver since we built DIA.
We see the terminal and hotel as the first major project of our Airport City and, with the collaboration of our regional partners, the larger aerotropolis. Developing the land on airport property will generate 30,000 new jobs in the next 20 years. And the potential for job growth outside those boundaries is staggering.
The aerotropolis and Airport City Denver will be developed through strong regional partnership and agreed upon economic values beneficial to all neighboring jurisdictions. I want to thank our regional partners who recognize the potential of the Aerotropolis and are working with us to envision a future of opportunity and mutual prosperity.
Together, we are transforming our region into an international hub with a diverse economy that trades in innovation and ingenuity; a global economy that gets more competitive every day.
While I am focused on strengthening the economy, I am just as focused on getting city government’s own fiscal house in order. In January, after 12 months of study, a group of community, business and civic leaders – many of whom are in this room today – issued nearly 30 recommendations to eliminate the city’s perpetual budget deficit.
In June, after refining some of those recommendations, I released a balanced four-part plan that calls for efficiency savings, cost reductions, expanding the city’s economic base and restructuring city revenues.
Over the past four years, we’ve closed shortfalls of nearly $450 million and cut back on essential city services. Like so many of you, the city has aggressively cut costs and found new ways to do more with less. Business improvement programs like Peak Performance and Lean are helping us to save millions of dollars.
Where we find inefficiencies, we are eliminating them. Where the process is slow, we are speeding it up. Where there’s red tape, we are cutting it. And all the while, we are improving customer service. Through this work, we are going save an estimated $10 million every year moving forward.
But we face another $94 million deficit in 2013. I stand before you today to say that it is time we deliver a smart and sustainable solution to our structural budget problem.
This November, I will be asking voters for permission for the city to retain and spend $68 million we currently credit back to the public every year. Only then can we stop cutting critical services and begin to invest in our city in the way our residents and businesses expect.
We can hire police officers for the first time in four years. We can repave the quarter of our streets that have not been fixed in two decades. We can help to create jobs by better supporting Denver businesses. And we can step up our efforts to restore the city’s reserves.
I want to thank the City Council committee for voting unanimously yesterday to move our proposal to the floor for full consideration. I look forward to a good discussion.
Now, I know many of you have questions about this proposal, and I look forward to answering each and every one those questions between now and Election Day. As will Rick Reiter, who will run the campaign. Make no mistake about it, we need and want your support.
Let me close with this. I fundamentally believe that if we do not face our tough decisions today, there will only be more challenges for our children and our children’s children.
That is why every day we are working to make our streets safer and create new opportunities for our children. Every day, we are working to improve customer service and become more efficient and cost effective. Every day, we are working to sustain our rainy day fund, maintain a high bond rating and keep the city's budget balanced. Every day, we are working with small and big businesses alike to drive this economy forward.
None of this is easy. None of this happens all by itself. And none of this happens if we don’t work together.
Thank you for standing together to make the metro region, this great metro region that we all love so much, an even better place. Thank you for your dedication, your partnership and your commitment. Thank you all.