Colorado has the second-best-educated workforce in the country, the third-largest labor force participation, a growing economy, and an abundance of natural assets to attract workers and businesses.
âBut we can’t be complacent,â said JJ Ament, former CEO of Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. and the new president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.
That’s why the Economic Development Corporation was determined to find the “secret sauce” that would set the Denver subway apart from other major metropolitan areas struggling to regain the ground lost during the pandemic and expand. Even before the pandemic and the recession that followed in 2020, EDC was working on a recipe to attract businesses and workers.
The finished product, unveiled on Friday, is “The Elevation Effect”. The logo, the Three Mountain Peaks, and associated marketing strategies were designed as a regional branding initiative to capitalize on what EDC says sets the Denver area apart: its workforce.
An analysis by Myers-Briggs Co., known for its personality ratings, produced the profile of the workforce that shaped the initiative, said Amy Guttmann, director of marketing and branding at EDC.
Metro-Denver workers are ambitious, collaborative, creative, supportive, they set big goals and must work with others around a shared vision, according to models found by Myers-Briggs. The company reviewed approximately 30,000 personality assessments previously performed by people in the nine-county metro area.
The information from the assessments was anonymous.
“We asked Myers-Briggs to help us figure out what we could talk to companies about beyond the idea that we are the second most educated workforce in America (behind Massachusetts),” Guttmann said. âIt’s a great selling point that we talk about all the time, but one of the things we know is that companies focus on more than just degrees. “
Companies want to know the ‘soft skills’ of workers, their digital skills and who they are as people, Guttmann added.
When EDC looked at business presentations made by 16 other metropolitan areas, Guttmann said he found a “sea of ââsimilarity.” Analysis has shown that economic development companies are selling their areas as good places to work, live and play or as the next hub of high technology.
âWe wanted to understand how to talk about Denver in a way that comes out of that kind of one-note, cookie-cutter story,â Guttmann said. âWhat we can say is that we are wired as a business community and as a workforce to never settle down. We are working very hard to get what we want.
Staff named what they considered to be the distinguishing features of the metropolitan area “the uplift effect”, alluding to an attitude as well as mountains and other natural assets that attract people looking for good. quality of life.
Ament, who has led the economic development arm of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce for the past four and a half years, said the focus on the workforce is important. He said conventional wisdom was that workers go where the jobs are.
âBut I think it’s reversed,â Ament said. âAfter September 11, I think it started. After the Great Recession, I think it accelerated. And I think it really took off (during) COVID.
âTalented and skilled workers, whether graduates or not, assess how they want to live their lives differently,â Ament added, âand that benefits Colorado and the Denver metro, because we are a place where talented and skilled workers , graduates or not, wants to be. “
Ament said companies that want to access a talented workforce need to move to where these people are located. He said the work done by EDC staff on the new branding gives the region at least a two-year head start to rebuild after the economic downturn linked to the pandemic.
Even during the pandemic, the metro area created jobs, Ament said. An EDC report shows that five of the nine industry groups the organization works with reported new jobs in 2020. These include aerospace, which grew 11.2%; financial services, 1.1%; and computer-software, 8.9%.
âWe have weathered this storm as well as you could hope for,â said Ament. “It doesn’t mean that there weren’t people in our community who were severely dislocated and in distress.”
The EDC report shows that energy and natural resources contracted 4.6%. About 45% of the jobs lost were in leisure and hospitality and about 80% of the total jobs lost were in low-wage industries, according to the report. Ament said women and people of color were disproportionately affected.
The chamber of commerce has initiatives and teams working to help displaced or struggling workers, Guttmann said. These include programs for veterans, small business development and leadership training.
Metro Denver business leaders sponsored a breakfast and roundtable on Friday with a team of site selectors, people from leading real estate and professional services companies consulting with businesses on where to expand or relocate.
âOne of the fun things is breakfast on Friday morning,â Ament said. âIt’s a chance for our community to hear from professionals who don’t necessarily have a hunting dog to say what’s great about us and where we need improvement. “
Labor shortages and high housing prices are two areas Ament hears a lot about from business people. Employers from all walks of life say they have more jobs than they can fill.
High housing prices in the Denver area put the area at a disadvantage compared to some of its competitors, Ament said. âIt’s not just a problem for us to try to recruit companies from elsewhere. How do you ensure that businesses that are already there stay and thrive here when their own employees, especially new career starters, cannot access entry-level housing? “
Even the allure of built-in natural assets has its limits when the outdoors cannot be enjoyed due to congested mountain trails or the smoke and smog of forest fires obscuring the view of the mountains and sometimes making activities difficult to enjoy. unhealthy outdoors.
Business groups, including the Denver Subway Chamber of Commerce, have opposed a public program that would have forced large employers to press workers to reduce car trips to and from work. They said it should be voluntary.
State health officials recently withdrew the plan.
Ament said Denver’s air quality has long been a priority for the Denver chamber.
âWe were instrumental in the creation of the Regional Air Quality Council in 1989 and continue to participate in the work of the council,â said Ament. âThe chamber encourages its members to take action to improve air quality in ways that are best for their employees and businesses. “