Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Three ideas to help raise Colorado's profile, if not its revenues

Image isn't everything -- but appearances count when you're trying to market a state. Colorado already has a head start with its scenery and a colorful governor who's a walking sound bite; here are three other ideas guaranteed to raise this state's profile, if not its revenues.

1) A state bank geared to helping the medical marijuana industry

Medical marijuana and the businesses devoted to it may be legal in Colorado -- but the feds still frown on the MMJ industry, which means that banks that must operate under federal regulations do, too. Dispensaries across the state regularly report problems with their banks; even if they're not booted as a client, as many have been, they encounter difficulties just going about their everyday business. "They're having serious trouble with banks," says one industry insider. "They can't buy capital equipment, they can't expand, they can't even do their payroll." And they even have trouble paying cash, because anything over $10,000 must be reported to the feds -- who assume that large amounts of cash reflect traffic in drugs. Illegal drugs, unlike MMJ.

The solution? A state bank that would cater to these businesses, which are paying taxes, paying their employees, and doing things correctly -- according to Colorado law, at least. By taking care of their money, the state could make some money.

Working title? "The Stash."

2) A true Colorado store at Denver International Airport

For years, I've carped about the sorry marketing of this city and state at DIA, and every time I'm rushing for a plane, desperate to grab a gift for the person I'm visiting, I lament the lost opportunity again. Instead of stores that specialize in items truly unique to Colorado, the airport has shops like Greetings From Colorado, which sells Denver T-shirts made in Haiti that even get the year of the city's founding wrong.

If we really want to greet visitors to this city the right way and give tourists leaving our state a proper send-off, DIA should set up Always Buy Colorado shops and stands on the concourses. By placing them there, past security, the airport could peddle not just locally produced art (taking a page from the Pop-Up Store, which just closed this past weekend at the Denver Pavilions), knickknacks and foodstuffs (how about some jerky made in Colorado rather than California?), but this state's most liquid asset: craft beer. Although state law would prohibit the sale of growlers, there's nothing preventing the sale of bottles and cans of local microbrews on the concourses. Except for the fact that no one's ever gotten a retail license to sell liquor at the airport.

Colorado craft-beer souvenirs? That's a concept that could really fly.

3) An official Colorado cocktail

With the John Fielder photograph chosen for John Hickenlooper's office, we now have a representation of what Colorado looks like. Now, how about what it tastes like? This state is more than just microbrews. Over a dozen distillers are working in Colorado right now, making everything from gin to potato vodka to peach brandy. New York has its Manhattan, Kentucky its mint julep, and Colorado....? Well, we'll know that after we crown the first winner of the Colorado Cocktail Contest, which Westword is sponsoring along with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, the Colorado Distillers Guild and the Denver Bartenders Guild. The spirited contest is part of the Colorado Cocktail Project, which will spill all over the MCA in June.


KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun