Michael Hancock's economic development plan: Small biz development, big biz retention

Today, Mayor Michael Hancock unveiled a new economic development strategy -- the NASCAR-y sounding "JumpStart 2012: Revving Up Denver's Economic Engine." It includes a host of specific initiatives in seven broad areas, including a plan to develop a $20 million "pot of money," in Hancock's words, to loan funds to small businesses that have been around for less than five years. "We're going to help them through that critical phase," he said.

Also in the plan:

  • Increase business retention, including identifying key companies in high-growth industries -- nicknamed "Denver Gazelles" -- and assigning a city representative to work with those companies "to discuss ways in which the city can become a better partner."
  • Beef up Denver's business recruitment, including creating a "mobile, on-call team that works hand-in-hand with companies relocating to Denver" to help find location sites, employee housing and expedite city processes.
  • Strengthen Denver's neighborhoods in order to boost its business advantage by increasing affordable housing by two hundred units, eliminating one food desert and requiring projects seeking financial assistance from the city to give back to Denver Public Schools and utilize the "local community workforce."
  • Reform Denver's business lending program to ensure that businesses are better able to pay back loans, and work with under-performing loan recipients to "negotiate a workout," including that borrowers cannot receive additional funding if they are in default.
  • Accelerate key projects, such as finding a replacement for the now-vacant Lowe's store in Alameda Square, encouraging commercial development at West 10th Avenue and Osage Street, and develop a plan to "effectively address causes and challenges of crime and homelessness in downtown Denver" to increase retail revenue there.
  • Develop the city's workforce by partnering with the community college system to provide training for jobs in high-growth industries, and expand the Bridges to Work youth workforce initiative by collaborating with the Colorado Rockies, Red Rocks, the Denver Broncos, Metro State and other employers that are: "(1) 'cool' to teenagers, (2) have seasonal employment needs, and (3) inherent mentorship opportunities."

Hancock unveiled the plan, along with Office of Economic Development chief Paul Washington, at Battery621, a shared creative space in a former blighted building at 621 Kalamath Street. It's home to thirteen companies, including ski-wear giant Spyder and much smaller ventures, such as 5280 Agency, an event-staffing company founded in 2009. "We gotta applaud these guys, because they're creating jobs!" Hancock said.

More from our Business archive: "Denver International Airport's revised expansion plan cheaper but still flighty."

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