Meet Colorado COVID-19 Economic and Innovation Dream Team

Blair Richardson, Federico Peña, Betsy Markey, Brad Feld, Deborah Jordy and Gary Arnold (clockwise from upper left) have all agreed to pitch in during the COVID-19 crisis.
Blair Richardson, Federico Peña, Betsy Markey, Brad Feld, Deborah Jordy and Gary Arnold (clockwise from upper left) have all agreed to pitch in during the COVID-19 crisis.
Amid the flurry of announcements made by Colorado Governor Jared Polis in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, including an order to temporarily close bars and restaurants, a similar directive to shut down nail salons and tattoo parlors, a followup loosening regulations related to alcohol delivery, and a call to reduce the state's in-person workforce by 50 percent, you may have missed two other significant developments: the formation of separate advisory committees peopled by some of the most influential business, political and government leaders in the state.

Some, but not all, of these heavy hitters are well known among local news junkies — most prominently former Denver mayor and U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico Peña. Others aren't headline names beyond their particular industries, but that doesn't make them any less powerful.

The largest of these panels is the Governor’s Economic Stabilization and Growth Council, which Peña has agreed to chair. Then there's the state's Innovation Response Team, whose initial focus will be on "ramping up a mass testing program for the COVID-19 virus, creating a suite of services for citizens under isolation or quarantine, developing mobile and other technologies to help track the spread of the virus and support infected citizens, and developing locally sourced alternatives for constrained critical medical supplies," according to Polis's office.

These task forces share one member — the Foundry Group's Brad Feld — and a common goal: to come up with ideas for how to help the state mitigate the effects of the novel coronavirus and then recover from the economic blow as quickly and robustly as possible. Meet the members, by way of linked biographies from their various organizations.


Federico Peña

The ex-mayor and cabinet secretary (who headed the U.S. Energy Department before filling the Transportation slot) is currently "Senior Advisor at the Colorado Impact Fund, a venture fund investing in Colorado companies having a positive community impact in the state. Previously, he was a Managing Director and Senior Advisor at Vestar Capital Partners, a leading private equity firm." He also "serves on the boards of Wells Fargo & Company and Sonic Corp. Peña was National Co-Chair of Obama for America and a national board member of the Obama-Biden Transition."

Gary Arnold

Arnold is the business manager for Denver Pipefitters, which describes itself as a "Denver, Colorado-based local union" that's all about "providing the best labor force in Colorado. We pride ourselves on providing the best training programs in the state. Our members are all drug and alcohol free per our policy, and adhere to our rigorous Standard For Excellence program. Our commitment to complete customer satisfaction and responsibility to our members is evident in everything we do."

Deborah Jordy

The executive director for the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, Jordy "has played a prominent role in the arts and cultural scene for the past thirty years," her bio states. "Deborah joined the SCFD in December 2016. She is the former Executive Director of the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, the Cherokee Ranch and Castle Foundation, the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities and was Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Denver Art Museum. She is a trustee of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation and on the Board of Directors of Americans for the Arts."

Dick Monfort

Monfort is as prominent a person as Peña, albeit in a different sphere; he's the owner and CEO of the Colorado Rockies. The Major League Baseball website notes that in addition to overseeing the club, as he's done for the previous 22 seasons, he "spent 25 years in the cattle business, primarily with his family's company. In 1987, he was named president of Monfort of Colorado, Inc., a subsidiary of ConAgra, and in 1991 became president and CEO of ConAgra Red Meats. After retiring from ConAgra in 1995, he helped launch the Montera Cattle Company in 1996." He's also a major philanthropist by way of the Monfort Family Foundation, which gave $10 million to Children's Hospital Colorado for the construction of a new medical facility in Aurora in 2004 and supports the Boys & Girls Clubs in Metro Denver and Weld County, as well as the Monfort School of Business at the University of Northern Colorado and the Monfort Excellence Fund at Colorado State University.

Blair Richardson

Blair Richardson is a money man. From 1987 to 1995, he worked for Morgan Stanley and Company in positions such as president of Morgan Stanley Japan in Tokyo, vice chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia in Hong Kong, and managing director of the firm's equity and fixed-income department in New York. He eventually hung out his own shingle as managing partner of B.E. Richardson Investments, which made over twenty private equity investments between 1996 and 2002. The following year, he co-founded Bow River Capital, a Denver-based private investment firm for which he acts as CEO. In 2011, 5280 named him one of Denver's fifty most influential people.

Jim Crowe

Crowe founded MFS Communications Company and took it public in 1993. Three years later, MFS completed a $14.3 billion merger with WorldCom, which he chaired before moving on to become the president and chief executive officer of Level 3 Communications, touted as "the first international communications company to fully leverage the power of Internet technology." He served as CEO of Level 3 from 1996 to the early 2010s.

Brad Feld

The Foundry Group, which Boulder-based Feld helped birth, is designed to "help entrepreneurs and venture capital fund managers turn promising ideas into market-defining and market-leading businesses. We are committed to spreading the Foundry Group ethos through our investment activity as well as in the other ways we engage with the entrepreneurial ecosystem." Previously, Feld founded Intensity Ventures and co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and Techstars. An author and the man behind the blog Feld Thoughts, he has agreed to chair the Innovation Response Team's private-sector task force, too.

Dave Young

A former junior high-school teacher turned information architect and coder, Young eventually entered politics via an appointment to the Colorado Legislature in 2011; he subsequently won three elections for the seat. In 2018, he was prevented from running again because of term limits, so he decided to seek the office of Colorado treasurer — which he won and where he continues to serve.

Cary Kennedy

A former state treasurer and onetime chief financial officer for the City of Denver, Kennedy ran for governor in 2018. Polis bested her at the ballot box but quickly secured her services as his senior advisor for fiscal policy.

Lauren Larson

Once the Chief of the Treasury Branch under presidents Bush and Obama, Larson later joined the administration of former Governor John Hickenlooper as the Office of State Planning and Budgeting's director. Upon his election, Polis asked her to continue in that role.

Joe Barela

Barela is the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment's executive director under Polis. The CDLE is "a 1,300-person state agency that houses six divisions serving Colorado through resources for workers and employers, as well as public safety and regulatory functions. We provide Colorado employers with recruitment, workforce training, labor law interpretation, lay-off transition assistance and labor market information. We also assist Colorado workers through job training and job search, unemployment benefits during periods of job loss, worker's compensation benefits when they are injured on the job and recovering unpaid wages."

Rick Garcia

Prior to landing his current gig as executive director of the state's Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), Garcia "served as the Regional Administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Region VIII in the administration of President Barack Obama. In addition, Rick was designated as Senior Policy Advisor to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan on Sustainability representing the field offices. He also served as HUD liaison to the Denver Metropolitan's Regional Air Quality Council, which advised the Governor and the General Assembly on Environmental Protection Agency's air quality standards."

Betsy Markey

The career summary for Markey reads: "Betsy Markey was appointed by Governor Jared Polis to his cabinet as Executive Director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade in January 2019. She has over 30 years of leadership experience in government and the private sector. She has served as a Member of Congress, a senior federal executive, and the co-founder and CFO of a high tech company."


Matt Blumberg

The man designated interim director for the team is the co-founder, CEO and chairman of Broomfield's Return Path, a technology outfit intended to make email "work better. Matt is passionate about enhancing the online relationship between email subscribers and marketers so that both sides of the equation benefit. It is with great pride that he has watched this initial creation grow to a company of more than 400 employees with the market leading brand, innovative products, and the email industry’s most renowned experts."

Stan Hilkey

The Colorado Department of Public Safety's executive director, Hilkey will oversee the Innovation Response Team under the umbrella of the state's Emergency Operations Center command structure. He's the former sheriff of Mesa County and, right now, "he supervises the work of more than 1,600 members of the department, which includes the Colorado State Patrol, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Division of Criminal Justice, Division of Fire Prevention and Control and the Colorado School Safety Resources Center. CDPS is one of the largest departments in Colorado state government."
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts