In the most recent update to P.U.M.A.’s Global Trends report, a key conclusion was the need for downtowns to play a stronger role in advocacy and regional collaboration. With increasing debt and the resulting trend toward austerity, federal and state governments are retreating from their historical role in financing infrastructure, education and innovation. To remain competitive and connected to the global economy, it is up to cities and regions to work together and invest in the basics that support growth.
Downtown and Main Street organizations are becoming more important in stimulating and leading the regional dialogue for several reasons. First, downtowns are often the economic engines for regions, the hub for jobs, transportation, government, education and health institutions and other economic infrastructure. Secondly, they are becoming more important as magnets to attract young skilled workers as millennial generation college graduates prefer living and working in urban environments. Finally, in an era of declining government resources, downtowns can harness both civic energy and resources through tested public/private partnership approaches.
One of the best examples of regional collaboration is found in our hometown, in Denver. Responding to a severe economic recession triggered in part by a collapse in the oil and gas markets, Denver’s drive toward regional collaboration got started in the late 1980s. Since then, we have accomplished a 25 year regional investment legacy that is the envy of cities throughout the nation. Results from regional cooperation and investment include Denver International Airport, the Colorado Convention Center, Fastracks regional rail transit, our baseball and football stadiums, the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District and more. Many of the investments are centered within and/or strengthen our downtown. In addition, the City of Denver has added to this legacy through a series of general improvement and school bond issues, pre-K education support and a number of other innovations. Our region, our city and our downtown are on a roll, currently at the top of most national indices of vital, hip and prosperous places to live and work.
To sharpen Metro Denver’s competitive edge, a concerted effort to maintain regional approaches is needed by our local governments, business and civic organizations. Leading the national trend, theDowntown Denver Partnership has emerged as champion of regional approaches, showcased by its series of Rocky Mountain West Urban Leadership Symposia. These events have brought together civic leaders from throughout the Front Range and beyond to learn about the economic advantages of urbanism and discuss approaches in the Rocky Mountain context. All in all a pretty remarkable feat for a region that doesn’t have many areas that can be classified as “urban.”
Please join us Thursday, May 9 at Colorado Municipal League in a de-briefing on the latest Partnership Symposium, offering inspiration for the road ahead. Click here for details and to register.