Talent in our Center City: Moving the Needle Forward in a Thriving Economy

October 12, 2018

The outstanding weather, quality of life and proximity to the mountains aren’t new qualities that attract talent to Denver. So what accounts for Denver’s recent influx of highly-skilled, highly-educated talent? Between a thriving economy and the electric energy that radiates from the tech scene, Denver’s allure is substantiated by more than just sunshine.

Denver’s job market is hot, to the benefit of both job seekers and employers. Metro Denver’s unemployment rate stands at 2.7%, one of the lowest in the country, with strong population growth (36,000 new residents in 2017 alone) balancing the tight labor market. But as the city continues to grow and additional companies begin to call Denver home, we need to focus on attracting, retaining and growing talent so that our companies continue to thrive, and continue to promote the opportunities that exist in Downtown Denver’s companies.

A testament to Denver’s on-fire job market is Denver Startup Week’s annual Job Fair. This year, more than 130 companies—including new-to-Denver companies like Slack—set up shop at the event in hopes of recruiting some of the more than 3,000 attendees. Companies like Healthgrades reported engaging with over 300 promising candidates. Xero, who recently opened a second headquarters in Downtown Denver, hired one of the event’s bartenders on the spot.

In an effort to expand access to non-local talent, the Downtown Denver Partnership and Denver Startup Week brought in 50 tech industry leaders from 12 different U.S. cities through the Ambassadors Program, courtesy of sponsor Southwest Airlines. The Ambassadors experienced Denver’s thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem by attending a mix of Denver Startup Week events and Ambassador-specific programming, including visits with top level representatives from a variety of Denver’s homegrown tech companies.  This year’s Ambassadors included a mix of tech entrepreneurs, investors, media professionals, and leaders from companies like Facebook, Netflix and Google, and were united in their desire to move to, invest in, or otherwise expand their business relationship with Denver.

The recently released Downtown Denver Startup Report tells the story of explosive growth on the startup scene. Over 5,000 people are working in early stage companies downtown and in the past year alone, Denver’s labor force has grown by over 58,000 employees.

Even with such impressive numbers, we know that the work to strengthen our talent pool doesn’t stop here. As startups scale up and more companies look expand to Denver, we know it’s important to grow our pool of highly-skilled talent.

We’re also developing the talent we have. Colorado already has the nation’s second most educated labor pool, thanks in part to Downtown Denver’s three distinguished academic institutions that are home to over 150,000 students. The Auraria Higher Education Center is home to University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver and the Community College of Denver—each offering programs that equip students with the technical skills that tech employers are looking for. And for those looking to build their skills, Downtown coding schools and bootcamps such as Galvanize, General Assembly, SecureSet, Skill Distillery, and Turing School of Software and Design are training the next generation of Denver’s highly-skilled tech employees.

Even as Colorado sees net migration gains against every state in the country, efforts to proactively recruit highly-skilled talent from out-of-state remain a priority for economic development organizations and tech companies. The recently-launched Pivot to Colorado campaign—an ad campaign that targets high-level Silicon Valley talent—has already garnered the attention of over 500 people from the San Francisco area who have signed up to be notified of new opportunities in Colorado.

Talent is critical to our city’s growth. We need to work together to address workforce housing challenges; to expand training and educational opportunities that develop our current and future employees; and to continue to make our city the best place in the country to live and work.