Keystone hosts Colorado Experience conference for Front Range business leaders
Denver civic and business leaders gathered in Keystone on April 17 on a snowy, slushy morning to discuss Colorado’s most pressing issues — and how Summit County fits into the mix.
Hosted by the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, it was the fourth program in an annual series of issues-oriented conferences, dubbed the “Colorado Experience.” Previous programs gave officials in Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins the opportunity to connect with their Front Range counterparts. Over the past five years, the programs have homed in on everything from poverty and homelessness to Colorado’s burgeoning population.
“We strive to strengthen Colorado’s leadership through issues education,” said Danielle Mellema, marketing and communications specialist for the foundation. “This one in particular, the Colorado Experience, looks at statewide issues through the lens of one community.”
In Summit, that lens was aimed at mountain-town issues that impact statewide infrastructure: affordable housing, water and the big, paved beast that runs through the heart of the county, Interstate 70.
“We felt like Summit County was a great intersection of the issues,” Mellema said. “You have reservoirs that provide water to the entire state, you have a mountain corridor that everyone wants to use, and for affordable housing, while it’s an issue in Denver as well, we definitely know that it’s a major issue in the mountains.”
Nearly 110 professionals from across the Front Range attended the early-morning seminar, with one notable exception: keynote speaker James Eklund. The director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board was slated to speak on Colorado’s overarching water plan, but due to snow closures from Denver to Silverthorne on I-70, he didn’t arrive until late in the afternoon after braving a snowy Vail Pass twice.
In Eklund’s place, a handful of attendees took the dais to give their take on Colorado’s water issues. There were representatives from Eagle River Water and Sanitation District — an afternoon tour of the Avon-based sanitation facility was also canceled due to snow on Vail Pass — along with Denver-based professionals from Slimgenics, Kaiser Permanente, Comcast and JP Morgan Chase.
While the majority of attendees don’t directly manage water, every speaker weighed in on how their businesses are impacted by an increasing demand on Colorado’s water system.
“A lot of us were surprised by the water conversation,” said Mizraim Cordero, director Colorado Competitive Council. “Very early in his administration, Gov. Hickenlooper said the state needed to complete its water plan, but the chamber wasn’t heavily involved until we heard from our member businesses that this is a serious topic. We wanted to dig into it.”
As a leadership-heavy program, Colorado Experience highlights how creative thinking and collaboration can solve large, often unwieldy problems, including water.
“We’re using the mountain community to illustrate those issues for our delegation,” Mellema said. “We have business and civic leaders coming together to really understand more about these issues across the state, looking at how Colorado’s approach of collaboration is helping us tackle those with innovative solutions.”
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