Restarting the Economy: Insights from ‘A Conversation with Richard Florida’

May 6, 2020

Written by: Randy Thelen | Senior Vice President, Economic Development | Downtown Denver Partnership

Last Thursday, renowned urbanist and author, Richard Florida, kicked off Downtown Denver Partnership’s Restarting the Economy Series with a conversation about how communities can respond and recover after hitting the pause button on the everything-including the economy.

Florida noted that effectively ‘restarting the economy’ will occur in phases:

Stage 1:  Initial Reopen:

Focusing on lower risk populations and activities.  A large part of encouraging normalcy to begin resuming includes modifying our public spaces to keep our community safe, ensuring that ‘Main Street’ and its businesses survive, and protecting and supporting the arts and creative community.

Stage 2:  Broader Reopen:

Expanding to higher-risk businesses and residents, & opening major assets and transit hubs. 

Here,  it is key that the larger anchor institutions are supported, especially universities, stadiums, convention centers, performing arts centers, and the airport and transit system.

Stage 3:  Economic Recovery:

Moving to a more resilient, sustained economic recovery.

To achieve the greatest level of prosperity for the greatest number of people requires a thoughtful, intentional, and tactical plan that is more inclusive and equitable than prior efforts; paying particular attention to the needs of frontline service workers who have sustained our economy through crisis and also to the needs of least-advantaged communities. Florida’s team has researched the cost of economic inequity, finding that communities that pursue a more inclusive economic recovery strategy will realize faster, stronger results.

As we work together through these stages, Florida highlighted the choice communities face—do we seek to return to the way it was, or do we now aspire to a higher standard? “Now we have an opportunity to rethink, to do better.  We owe it to ourselves and our community.”

Mayor Michael B. Hancock, who joined the program, built on this theme by recognizing “…this is an opportunity for us to reset, to think differently about our city and how we live in our city.”  With his leadership, the city has already deployed grants to ‘save Main Street’ that are helping over 200 local small businesses. Mayor Hancock has also launched a bold Economic Recovery and Relief Council to formulate and activate a plan for Denver’s reopening of the economy.

Noting that throughout history, pandemics have not had the lasting impacts that one might think, Florida closed the first installment of Restarting the Economy by saying,  “Worse pandemics have not altered the role of urbanization. Denver will survive and thrive. Now is our time to figure out what Denver can be.


Click here to register for “Returning to Work” with Janet Pogue McLaurin, the next in ‘Restarting the Economy’, a collection of national experts sharing their insights on how we can best advance toward economic recovery. Thank you to our sponsor, Liberty Global.


Randy Thelen