Study: CO's federal public lands drive economic growth

May 31, 2012

Headwaters Economics, an independent research group, released a new study showing that Colorado's federal public lands drive economic growth.  See Denver Post article by Jason Blevins below:

 By Jason Blevins The Denver Post 05/30/2012 - 9:41 PM EDT

Protected federal lands are fueling Colorado's economic vitality by luring both
employers and employees eager to pursue a quality of life elevated by wild, open
A new study released Wednesday by Montana's Headwaters Economics - an independent
research group that compiles federal and regional statistics into research aimed at
improving community development and land management decisions - shows that
Colorado's federally protected national parks, wilderness areas and monuments are
driving economic growth. The study of Colorado and the West reports that Western
non-metro counties with more than 30 percent of lands federally protected enjoyed a
345 percent increase in jobs since 1970 while non-metro counties with no protected
lands saw only 83 percent job growth in the same period.
It's not just the host communities that are thriving.
"The lands immediately surrounding these federally protected areas are the fastest
growing," said Ray Rasker , the executive director of Headwaters Economics who
describes himself as an "economic geographer."
Dispelling the notion that land protection hinders economic development, Rasker's
research points to Colorado's vast collection of federal land - 36 percent of the
state - as a primary driver in growing the state's economy.
In 2010, Colorado was a top-ranked state for entrepreneurs, with 450 new businesses
every month for every 100,000 residents compared to a national rate of 340 new
businesses a month.
David White , head of marketing for the Colorado Springs Regional Economic
Development Corp. regularly trolls California for chieftains of fast-growing
companies eager to escape a rough business climate. Focusing on six key industries,
White has found a gold mine of California CEOs ready to move to Colorado for
personal lifestyle reasons. His group's new ad campaign emphasizes Colorado Springs'
outdoor fun. A list of Orange County businesses that recently relocated to the city
is growing.
"Our quality of life and our open spaces and our trails are very appealing in trying
to attract the companies we want to attract," White said.
High wage services industries have led Colorado's job growth, with Rasker's research
showing new health care, finance, real estate and professional services jobs driving
and diversifying the state's job landscape. Many of those workers were lured by the
state's outdoor offerings, he said.
Colorado's wildlands not only attract new businesses but contribute to existing
business growth. Ryan Martens , founder of Boulder's Rally Software, said Colorado
is "the best combination of place, knowledgeable workers and lifestyle."
"I can't think of a better place to anchor a business," said Martens, who employs
200 highly skilled workers in Colorado. "It allows us a place to regenerate also.
It's a place for us to actually clear our heads."
John Land Le Coq recently relocated his Fishpond and Lilypond fly-fishing gear and
apparel companies from Kansas to Denver and is infusing his brands with not just
Colorado's sustainable, open spaces but the workers drawn to those places.
"We could have gone to several different places, but Colorado was vital to us
because of the employee base," Le Coq said. "The kind of people we want in our
business are here for the same reason we are. It's the employee base we need."
Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374 or
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