Colorado’s Hickenlooper Pushes Plan for Tech-Friendly State

Colorado, where unemployment topped the national average in three of the past five months, is looking to attract more technology jobs by helping employers access capital through a plan unveiled today by Governor John Hickenlooper.

“This is how we really are going to get this state going and get it back in gear,” Hickenlooper said at a press conference in northern Denver at Taxi, a 20-acre complex where tech and biosciences startups replaced a storage yard for cabs and warehouses for freight.

The governor said he met yesterday with executives of Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp., the world’s biggest software maker, to discuss why Colorado would be a good fit with its plans to hire thousands of workers nationwide.

Hickenlooper made his remarks at the official release of his “Colorado Blueprint.” The governor’s economic development team crafted the 75-page plan after traveling 6,000 miles (9,700 kilometers) to talk with people in all 64 counties, said Dwayne Romero, executive director of the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

“The feedback we got was one part good and two to three parts bad,” Romero said in a briefing yesterday for reporters. “The common theme was red tape and the government is lacking in empathy and understanding.”

Seeking Entrepreneurs

A Democrat who started a Denver brewery pub before becoming mayor, Hickenlooper, 59, took office in January on a pledge to bolster the economy by attracting entrepreneurs. The plan calls for increasing access to capital by providing as much as $15 million to be used as additional collateral for companies seeking operating loans, according to the blueprint.

The state’s jobless rate fell to 8.7 percent in May, compared with 9.1 percent nationwide, after exceeding the U.S. level from January to March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Colorado’s ability to offer incentives and assistance to encourage development is limited by the state constitution, which makes it difficult to raise taxes without voter approval.

“Colorado in general is not a particularly competitive state when it comes to economic incentives,” said Larry Burkhardt, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Upstate Colorado Economic Development Corp.

“If we’re competing against states like Texas, New Mexico, Wyoming or Utah, it’s not that we are not in the game, but that isn’t our strongest area,” he said by telephone yesterday.

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