Board Chair Q&A: Rob Cohen

November 15, 2018

Catching Up with Partnership Board Chair Rob Cohen

Rob Cohen, Chairman and CEO of The IMA Financial Group, is mid-way through his term as Chairman of the Downtown Denver Partnership’s Management Group Board of Directors. We recently caught up with Rob to check in on his perspective as the organization works to build an economically powerful center city.

 

What do you think are some of the most significant accomplishments the Partnership has been involved with over the past 6 months?

The success of a city is all about how people interact with it.  Every time we succeed in improving people’s experiences in the city, I feel we’ve hit our mark.  So, initiatives around safety in the downtown corridor (our Security Action Plan), or linking neighborhoods for better access and utilization (the 5280 Loop), or keeping our downtown areas vibrant, impressive and welcoming (the 16th Street Mall Redevelopment Plan) are all critical to that personal interaction people have with the city.  Our continued work on affordable housing issues would fall into this category as well – how can we make Denver accessible to as many people as possible?

And no city thrives without its business engine.  The work we continued to do focusing on corporate recruitment and retention, and encouraging entrepreneurs and startups is, I think, crucial to keeping our city’s engine humming.

 

What excites you most about our work over the next 6 months?

This year we passed the half-way point of the 20-year “Denver Area Plan,” the goals of which were to make Denver more prosperous, more walkable, more diverse, more distinctive, and greener.  Looking ahead to the rest of 2018, I see the Partnership leading initiatives that touch all of these goals.  The 5280 Loop and Mall Redevelopment each touch many of those goals.  Initiatives like “Green Roofs” and Skyline Park reach others.  I’m thrilled to see that 10 years after this visionary plan was designed, we are still using it to guide our workplans, and I feel like every 6 months yields measurable improvements for our city.

 

We talk a lot at the Partnership about “city building.”  How do you define that term?

Throughout my years in Denver, I’ve learned more and more how much a vision can guide planning for a city.  City-building to me means understanding clearly where we want to go, and what we want our city to look like – or not look like – for the next generations of Coloradans.  It isn’t necessarily about being bigger or glitzier, but about being better, being amazing.  Quality over quantity.  Denver has been growing, but I want to help make sure it is getting better, not just bigger.  True city-building should be about a clear vision for a better space for our fellow citizens.

 

One of the core focus areas of the Partnership is growing our Membership and ensuring that our Members are engaged.  What would you tell people considering getting involved with the Partnership as Members?

First, I feel very strongly that nobody should sit on the sidelines and wait for someone else to do the heavy lifting.  Anyone who believes in Denver and loves it like we do should jump in and be part of the group that works hard to solve problems and set vision.  The Partnership is a terrific avenue to get involved and help to make Denver better.

Second, I would say that there have never been more areas to get involved than there are now.  Whatever your passion, and whatever your personality, there is a way to give of your time and talents through the Partnership.  Last year we coordinated thousands of volunteers in events and projects; and hundreds of people served on boards and committees to help set direction and move projects forward.  Whether someone’s passion is in volunteering, or helping attract new businesses to Denver, or designing long-term vision, there is a place for that passion within the Partnership.

 

What advice would you give current Member to increase their engagement this year?

Just ask.  If you have a passion for helping Denver grow and prosper, just ask, and we will help find the spot for you.  If you have employees that want to get more involved in Denver, just ask, and we’ll help plug them in.  There is never a shortage of work to be done, and all are welcome to help.  The more, the merrier!

 

What motivates you to stay involved with the Partnership?

Watching Denver grow over the past 20-30 years has been amazing.  Each year I am so proud of where we are as a city and what we’ve become, but I know the next year will bring something new – new accomplishments and new challenges.  Cities grow and mature and thrive, but nobody thrives alone – cities, like people, need advocates and mentors to keep growing in the right direction.  I will never get tired of advocating for Denver.  I love this city, and I know that every year it can be better.