New VP turns watchful eye to rural areas
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-
“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.”