Colorado Innovation Network: Would-be workers cooling their heels in "coolest city"

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Governor John Hickenlooper announced yesterday that he'd created the Colorado Innovation Network, "a roadmap for making Colorado the best state for innovation," he explains, "and where every road must lead to new jobs."

And when those jobs arrive, there will be plenty of young workers to take them, because despite the economic doldrums, young people continue coming to Denver -- the country's top "cool" city -- in droves.

And unlike most of those city-ranking, hit-seeking Internet lists (which have cumulatively described Denver as "the manliest, drunkest city"), this ranking has some real science behind it.

William Frey, a demographer and senior fellow of the Metropolitan Policy Program for the Brookings Institution, parsed the numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey and determined that from 2008 through 2010, even as the hopes for a quick comeback from the recession faded, young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 were high on Denver... and proved it by coming here.

Although Denver ranked a mediocre twelfth in Frey's last survey, which covered 2005 through 2007, it's since pulled far ahead of such previous hotspots as Phoenix and Atlanta, which barely gained any young adults between 2008 and 2010. But Denver added a chart-topping 10,429. (Click to view the full results of the cool cities study.)

"People aren't moving as much," Frey admits. "Young adults still have the highest migration rates, but they're way down from what they should be. To the extent they are moving, they're going to places that are a good place to be for now."

And Denver should continue to be a good place, since its growth in the last decade was far more diversified than in the energy-centric early '80s. "I'm not an economist, I'm a demographer," Frey explains. "But what we see from the migration data, Colorado and Denver are probably a part of the country that will survive and possibly prosper when the economy comes back..."

Frey goes into more details in his blog on the Brookings website: "There is no doubt that the current economic doldrums are leaving many young people in limbo -- some on city streets outside financial institutions and stock exchanges -- waiting for employment and housing opportunities to emerge," he notes, citing the Occupy crowds that have sprung up across the country. "When the economy does eventually pick up, they will follow the jobs, no doubt, wherever they become available. In the meantime, a select group of metro areas with modestly growing economies, and strong youth cachet, seem to be the places where they are riding out the downturn."

And If Hickenlooper's COIN has its way, there will be jobs for them right here in Colorado. In the meantime, stay cool.

Don't miss our slideshow, "15 Reasons Denver is the Coolest City."

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