The First 100 Days: A Reflection on Diving into Economic Development in Downtown Denver

April 25, 2018

By Randy Thelen Vice President, Economic Development, Downtown Denver Partnership

As the Downtown Denver Partnership’s new Vice President of Economic Development, people often ask where our economic development efforts are headed. To answer that question, I ask them to think of the economy as a river. I worked in Michigan as the state lost over 100,000 people in three years; we had to paddle extremely hard just to hold steady against a strong current. More recently in Omaha there was moderate growth, so with a little paddling, we made good forward progress. Here in Denver, the economic river is flowing rapidly. People and businesses want to be here.

Our job at the Downtown Denver Partnership is to serve as river guides for the center city. Not content to float along allowing the river to dictate our course, we are choosing our own adventure and driving economic development work that will sustain the rapidly growing river for years to come. For us, that economic development path includes:
• Continue to execute the 2007 Downtown Area Plan. The Plan has guided us well the past 10 years and will continue to do so another 10 years;
• Support the development community— developers, brokers, bankers, attorneys, architects, builders— and execute projects that make Denver even more economically powerful;
• Develop and execute a targeted strategy for Upper Downtown that will reenergize this important area in the downtown core;
• Help design affordable housing programs that meet the needs of center city employers and employees;
• Keep our stakeholders informed by providing unique data and reports on downtown development, mobility trends, startups, retail, talent, and housing;
• Build upon our innovation ecosystem by leveraging tech startups, Denver Startup Week, accelerators and venture capital, and by increasing the advanced research and development taking place in our center city.

With the river flowing so quickly, standing still is not an option. The current is pushing us downstream. Our task, as river guides, is to choose the optimal path.