Colorado History

Crypto Is Not the First Industry to Promise a Boom in Colorado

Colorado should be the capital of cryptocurrency, Governor Jared Polis told the crowd at ETHDenver.
Colorado should be the capital of cryptocurrency, Governor Jared Polis told the crowd at ETHDenver. Courtesy Andrew Rossow
With cryptocurrencies booming and blockchain technology becoming more widely accepted, Colorado is now selling itself as a capital for both industries. “We’ve got an open, hospitable environment. We’ve got more than a dozen blockchain tech companies located in the state right now,” says Thaddeus Batt, who in 2019 was hired as the state’s chief blockchain architect.

In fact, Governor Jared Polis's administration is working to have a system in place by the end of summer that would allow residents and entities in Colorado to pay their taxes using cryptocurrency.

“First we’ll do a pilot with the taxes, and then we’ll roll it out for more and more types of transactions so that it is a readily available form of payment for people,” says Mark Ferrandino, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue. “I think it’s very much sending a strong message of how we believe in the technology as a state and the importance of how we see this as a future of how things are moving forward.”

Colorado's effort to establish itself as a crypto and blockchain center is not the first time that the state has pitched itself as the capital of a certain industry. While some of those attempts have succeeded, others have flopped big-time. Here's a look at a few booms...and busts.
Colorado once had a booming carnations industry. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Colorado once had a booming carnations industry.

Starting in the 1870s, a carnation industry began to blossom in Colorado. Thanks to fertile soil and a favorable growing climate, the Front Range became the carnation capital of the United States, with greenhouses stretching from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins. Wholesalers and shippers popped up throughout the state, and carnations became a popular gift.

"People would wear carnations and you’d get carnation corsages," says Tom Noel, the historian known as Dr. Colorado.

By the second half of the twentieth century, though, carnation producers in foreign countries had chipped away at the Colorado industry's control of the market share. "When they’re exported much more cheaply than they can be grown and raised here, the markets for carnations collapsed," Noel notes.
click to enlarge The City of Denver owns Cableland. - KENZIE BRUCE
The City of Denver owns Cableland.
Kenzie Bruce

Metro Denver was once the world's capital for cable television. The industry started developing in the 1950s, as small operations wired lines from Denver into smaller towns throughout Colorado. The biggest player was Bill Daniels, a Greeley native, who helped the cable TV industry explode into what it would became two decades later. And given Colorado's near-perfect stretch into space from dishes on the ground to satellites in the heavens, satellite TV companies also based themselves in Denver. In 1994, there were around 3,000 people working in the cable industry in Colorado.

But by then, cable TV companies based in Colorado were beginning to merge with other large companies that were headquartered elsewhere, which effectively took away Denver's status as the cable capital of the world. Remnants of that time remain, however: DISH Network remains headquartered in Englewood. And Daniels donated his Denver mansion to the City of Denver, with the goal of it becoming the mayor's official residence. Although no First Family has moved into Cableland, the house is sometimes used for official city events and parties, and the guest quarters have served as temporary housing for assorted city officials...including Mayor Michael Hancock, after he and his wife separated.
click to enlarge Penny stocks used to be another form of gold in Denver. - PEXELS
Penny stocks used to be another form of gold in Denver.
Penny Stocks

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Denver became the penny stock capital of the world. The boom in penny stocks — which would usually go on the market at less than $1 a share — created a modern-day gold rush, with many businesses, often energy companies, opening up shop in Colorado in order to secure funding through penny stocks.

But while some were getting rich off of penny stocks, others were losing fortunes. The penny stock market was rife with fraud and manipulation, as Italian-American mafia members helped cheat people out of billions; here at home, the name Meyer Blinder became akin to a curse. The U.S. Congress finally clamped down on things in 1990, when it enacted the Penny Stock Reform Act, giving the feds much more regulatory oversight of the industry.
click to enlarge Pot is still hot in Colorado. - HERBERT FUEGO
Pot is still hot in Colorado.
Herbert Fuego

In 2012, Coloradans voted in favor of recreational marijuana sales by passing Amendment 64; when Governor John Hickenlooper made the results of that election official in December, the state became the first in the country to legalize retail cannabis. On January 1, 2014, the rec marijuana market went live — and Colorado quickly became synonymous with weed, pot, reefer, marijuana and any other word that people use to refer to the good herb.

In 2021, marijuana dispensaries in the state sold $2.3 billion worth of products. While other states have followed Colorado's lead, the cannabis industry continues to grow in the state, with related businesses such as consulting agencies, public relations outlets and even law firms helping industry members navigate the commercial and political environments.
click to enlarge Colorado remains the ski capital of America, if not the world. - ARAPAHOE BASIN/IAN ZINNER
Colorado remains the ski capital of America, if not the world.
Arapahoe Basin/Ian Zinner

Around the world, Colorado is most famous for its vibrant ski and snowboard scene. The origins of skiing here date back to the late nineteenth century, when postal workers used skis to navigate treacherous terrain in the Rockies. By the 1930s, ski areas began to open across the state; Denver's own skiing playground, Winter Park, opened in 1940 with a total of three runs. And the business boomed from there, as veterans of the Tenth Mountain Division returned from World War II and began developing the mountains of Colorado. When Vail opened in 1962, Colorado became king of the mountain in the skiing world.

Today, Colorado's ski resorts attract somewhere around 12 million visitors annually, and they are home to  many successful professional athletes, such as Vail native Mikaela Shiffrin. As the Colorado Encyclopedia puts it, "Skiing continues to define Colorado’s high country."
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.