Eco­nomic mo­bil­ity tops city’s de­vel­op­ment list

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Em­i­lie Rusch

Den­ver’s econ­omy has added 75,000 jobs and 5,000 busi­nesses since 2011, ac­cord­ing to the city Of­fice of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment.

But in an ac­knowl­edg­ment that not all city res­i­dents have ben­e­fited equally from Den­ver’s rise, city of­fi­cials an­nounced Wed­nes­day that eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ef­forts this year will fo­cus on eco­nomic mo­bil­ity and op­por­tu­nity for all.

That in­cludes cre­at­ing more mid­dle-skill job op­por­tu­ni­ties for low-in­come res­i­dents and help­ing to keep fam­i­lies in Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, Mont­bello and Westwood from be­ing in­vol­un­tar­ily dis­placed from their neigh­bor­hoods.

“We’re tak­ing nec­es­sary strides to help en­sure all res­i­dents have the op­por­tu­nity to ben­e­fit from Den­ver’s vi­brant econ­omy,” Mayor Michael Han­cock said in an­nounc­ing the city’s 2017 Jump­Start plan.

Each year, the Den­ver Of­fice of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment lays out its strate­gic pri­or­i­ties in the plan. Last year’s Jump­Start plan em­pha­sized as­sist­ing small busi­nesses, re­tain­ing larger ones and pro­mot­ing in­ter­na­tional trade, while in 2015, the city fo­cused on af­ford­able and work­force hous­ing.

“Eco­nomic mo­bil­ity is a fancy word for how do we ex­tend eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity to ev­ery­one, not just those that have ac­cess or have al­ready demon­strated fi­nan­cial suc­cess,” said Paul Wash­ing­ton, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Den­ver Of­fice of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment. “We look at that in two fun­da­men­tal ways — what I would term as an in­come ap­proach and an eq­uity ap­proach.”

Among the city’s strate­gic ini­tia­tives this year are:

• Test­ing a pro­gram to give dis­placed res­i­dents pri­or­ity in new af­ford­able hous­ing units funded by OED.

• Fi­nanc­ing a co­op­er­a­tive own­er­ship model for small neigh­bor­hood-based busi­nesses that em­ploy res­i­dents in north and west Den­ver.

• De­vel­op­ing a maker’s lab that pro­vides en­trepreneurs with ac­cess to man­u­fac­tur­ing re­sources.

• En­cour­ag­ing de­vel­op­ers of OED-fi­nanced projects to re­cruit, train and hire low-in­come res­i­dents for en­try-level, mid­dle-skill po- sitions.

• Es­tab­lish­ing a $3 mil­lion fund to fi­nance at least one full-ser­vice gro­cery store each in Mont­bello, Westwood and Globeville/Elyria-Swansea.

Cre­at­ing a public-pri­vate fi­nanc­ing model to pre­serve and re­ha­bil­i­tate hous­ing units whose af­ford­abil­ity re­stric­tions are ex­pir­ing

OED ear­lier this year es­tab­lished a di­vi­sion ded­i­cated to eco­nomic mo­bil­ity, Han­cock said.

“If we can pro­vide a roof, we’ve also got to pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties to move up the eco­nomic lad­der,” Han­cock said. “That in­cludes bet­ter pay­ing jobs, op­por­tu­nity to po­si­tion your­self to be an en­tre­pre­neur, how we strengthen our small busi­nesses, how we pro­vide good trans­porta­tion op­tions.”

Wash­ing­ton, who is leav­ing city hall at the end of the week for a job with com­mer­cial real es­tate firm JLL, said the big­gest chal­lenge fac­ing OED mov­ing for­ward will be re­main­ing ef­fec­tive even as its fed­eral fund­ing likely de­creases.

“An over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of the Of­fice of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment’s fund­ing is fed­eral,” Wash­ing­ton said, adding that city of­fi­cials are “an­tic­i­pat­ing no less than a 20 per­cent cut.”

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