Beer Town Abuzz with Coors-Miller Merger

Coors has called Colorado home for more than a century. Even after the Golden-based beer maker merged with Canada's Molson, Coors remained tied to the Rocky Mountains when the combined company put its headquarters in Denver. But that could change after Molson Coors completes its planned merger with Miller Brewing. And for the past several weeks, the media in Milwaukee, where Miller is based, has been obsessing over where the new beer behemoth will put its headquarters.

The discussion shifted into high gear after Miller executive Vic Milford was shot and killed during a robbery on January 26. The incident created such a stir, in fact, that a Miller spokesman had to go on record saying that the crime, which happened in a nightclub district on Milwaukee's south side, wouldn't affect its headquarters decision. Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle and other Cheesehead officials have downplayed the issue as well, calling the slaying unfortunate — and unusual.

In the meantime, a Milwaukee-area economic-development coalition has been aggressively lobbying Miller to stay put. So has Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, who asked Doyle and business leaders to join him in a "full-court press" aimed at keeping the headquarters.

So what's Denver doing?

Boosters at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce have decided to take a different approach: They're not doing anything. And they'll continue to do nothing until told otherwise by Coors, according to chamber spokesman Bill Ray. "Coors is still working on the legal and operational details," he says of the merger. "There is not talk yet of where the headquarters might be." Coors has been a major chamber donor for some time, and its chief legal officer and group vice president for public affairs, N. Cornell Boggs III, sits on the chamber's board of directors. So when the time is finally right, Boggs will presumably give the chamber, along with other state officials, the go-ahead to begin an economic-development assault on behalf of Colorado. "We believe our quality of life here, our educated workforce" — among other factors — "puts us beyond Milwaukee," Ray says.

A silver bullet? Not if Milwaukee's best have anything to say about it.

The price of admission: Molson Coors and Miller aren't the only big corporations getting love letters these days. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science has also been a-courtin'.

This Friday, the traveling GOLD exhibit, cozily sponsored by Colorado-based gold-mining giant Newmont and Wells Fargo (no explanation needed), opens at the museum. And in April 2009, a permanent health-related exhibit, titled Expedition Health, opens with $4 million in backing from Kaiser Permanente Colorado.

Can SODA, sponsored by Pepsi, be far behind? Museum communications director Laura Holtman says no, and not only no, but the museum makes sure it keeps creative control over its exhibits even when it's looking to raise some precious metal of its own. GOLD, for instance, is an "unflinching look at gold across history. It's not a nice story," she says. And Kaiser won't be allowed to pitch its products to visitors.

"We are not pandering to anyone. We have boundaries, guidelines about what they are going to get for their money," Holtman says. "It helps defray the costs of bringing exhibits here...but we try not to overdo it. We don't want a thousand logos all over the place. As one person in our office put it, 'We don't want to look like the mall.'"

Say...the history of malls might actually make for a nice exhibit. Wasn't the first outdoor shopping center in the country put on an old dump beside Cherry Creek?

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