New VP turns watch­ful eye to ru­ral ar­eas

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Erin Dou­glas

The Metro Den­ver Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion wants to bring ev­ery­one from Silicon Val­ley star­tups to For­tune 500 com­pa­nies to Colorado — and next month, the or­ga­ni­za­tion will have a new vice pres­i­dent to help do it.

Sam Bai­ley is leav­ing his po­si­tion as pres­i­dent and CEO of Jef­fer­son County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion to take on a new role as vice pres­i­dent in Den­ver’s EDC on Aug. 7.

But he’s tasked with more than just the metro area. The largest eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment firm in the Colorado wants to make sure ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties get a piece of the re­gion’s suc­cess, too.

Bai­ley, who had just taken on the role of CEO in Jan­uary, had a pre­vi­ous stint re­cruit­ing busi­nesses in the Gover­nor’s Of­fice of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and In­ter­na­tional Trade, where he helped land big name com­pa­nies for smaller com­mu­ni­ties, like Long­mont and Fred­er­ick.

He was ap­pointed to Metro Den­ver’s EDC by CEO JJ Ament — new to the or­ga­ni­za­tion him­self. Ament took over the or­ga­ni­za­tion in April af­ter long­time leader and busi­ness re­cruit­ing le­gend Tom Clark re-

tired.

“The or­ga­ni­za­tion is strong and ef­fec­tive, so I’m try­ing not to mess it up,” Ament said. “My first charge is to do no harm. The chal­lenge is that when the econ­omy is do­ing as well as it’s do­ing, we have the symp­toms of that suc­cess.”

These symp­toms in­clude record-low un­em­ploy­ment that cre­ates chal­lenges for busi­ness ex­pan­sion and a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion that puts pres­sure on in­fra­struc­ture along the Front Range, Ament said.

“We have to ad­dress the is­sues that growth cre­ates — ed­u­ca­tion, trans­porta­tion, air qual­ity, wa­ter re­sources — all the things that go along with mak­ing sure our in­fra­struc­ture can keep up with Amer­ica’s de­sire to do busi­ness here,” he said.

The pri­vately funded or­ga­ni­za­tion tries to drive busi­nesses to a vast re­gion that stretches from Dou­glas County to Larimer County. But not all of Colorado has shared in the eco­nomic re­cov­ery, Ament ac­knowl­edged, so the Metro EDC also takes a re­gional ap­proach, co­or­di­nat­ing with other EDCs to make sure they are not com­pet­ing against one an­other.

“We need to con­tinue to make sure that we’re work­ing hard to see that all parts of Colorado can achieve eco­nomic suc­cess,” Ament said.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion works with nine coun­ties in the state’s most eco­nom­i­cally ac­tive re­gion. Ament said the re­gion ac­counts for 67 per­cent of the state’s pop­u­la­tion and nearly 80 per­cent of Colorado’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct.

Ament and Bai­ley want to re­cruit do­mes­ti­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally. Per­cep­tions that the state is a good place to live and work, while still be­ing more af­ford­able than coastal states puts Colorado in a unique po­si­tion, Ament said.

“It’s be­com­ing more ex­pen­sive com­pared to the past, but com­pared to coastal ar­eas we’re a bar­gain,” he said. “We have the se­cond most highly ed­u­cated work­force and a large mil­len­nial pop­u­la­tion. Peo­ple like to live here, and so they’re hap­pier and more pro­duc­tive em­ploy­ees.”

Part of Bai­ley’s new job will be to share that gospel as he works to at­tract a wide va­ri­ety of busi­nesses.

“Talk­ing to a For­tune 500 com­pany is a much dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tion than with a Silicon Val­ley start-up,” Bai­ley said. “Be­ing nim­ble and adap­tive to dif­fer­ent clients in vary­ing lev­els of busi­nesses, and be­ing the first to wel­come them, is im­por­tant to set a tone of how we work with com­pa­nies.”

Dur­ing his 2011-16 run in the gover­nor’s of­fice, Bai­ley is cred­ited for re­cruit­ing and ex­pand­ing such com­pa­nies as Agi­lent Tech­nolo­gies, Char­ter Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Com­cast, Gusto, HomeAd­vi­sor, In­tel, Part­ners Group, Smuck­ers, Sun­run and We­b­root. He said he is look­ing for­ward to hav­ing an im­pact on the re­gion af­ter wit­ness­ing the city grow since mov­ing here to study eco­nom­ics.

“As we con­tinue to com­pete against other states, we have a lot to cel­e­brate,” he said, “but a lot to work on.”

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