Colorado Blueprint: a new economic strategy or the same old thing?

When Ken Lund decided to move from the private to the public sector, he really didn't know what was in store. "I describe it this way: It's thirty years of programs in search of a strategy," he said. But that strategy was ultimately found, he told attendees at the third annual Rocky Mountain Entrepreneur's Summit yesterday. It's called the Colorado Blueprint.

During the talk, at the Cable Center at University of Denver, Lund shared his experience crossing over from the private sector as a lawyer for Holme Roberts & Owen to becoming Governor John Hickenlooper's chief legal counsel, after which he transitioned to his current position as the Office of Economic Development and International Trade's executive director. Lund is working closely with Hickenlooper in an attempt to transform Colorado into one of the leading pro-business states in the country.

In his presentation, Lund outlined the Colorado Blueprint, a plan that identifies the fourteen leading industries in the state, including bioscience, aerospace, advanced manufacturing and energy and natural resources. The blueprint attempts to leverage those industries into a strategy that the governor's office hopes will push Colorado into upper echelons of economically recovering states.

Lund is a self-described "recovering trial lawyer." He paced the stage and leavened the room with self-deprecating statements about topics like his decision to eschew 90 percent of his former income to collect the comparatively paltry payments made to public servants.

But less money isn't the important outcome of Lund's decision. The most key repercussion is his goal of luring some of the top players from the private sector into public positions in order to catalyze creative solutions to the wide-ranging problem that is the economy. This would certainly transform operating procedures, for better or for worse.

Lund describes his efforts so far in a typically deprecating manner: "We did a couple things that were revolutionary: We gave everyone a phone and told them to answer it."

One of his goals is to stimulate growth within the state by utilizing resources already here, rather than looking for outside investors and contractors. He emphasized that one of the crucial elements of the blueprint so far has been for individual counties to devise business plans built around existing assets, and not what they need from the government. He estimates that this step of the plan engaged more than 20,000 people, a number he called "unprecedented."

In his words, "If we got criticized for anything, we got criticized for moving too fast. And I thought, 'Geez, well, coming to government, if we're getting criticized for moving too fast that people can't keep up with us, that was a good thing.'"

The Colorado Blueprint is in its sixteenth month of implementation. As the plan proceeds, entrepreneurs will keep a close eye on the developing industry regulations to gauge the start-up climate. Colorado aims to be pro-business, and as other states struggle through the recovery process, this approach could very well be the nudge the state needs.

Here's the complete Colorado Blueprint.

Colorado Blueprint

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