They are called his “all-star economic team” but can they help score a $100 million victory?
That’s the projected budget deficit facing Denver in 2012 and it’s part of the challenge facing the city’s new economic development team, who were announced Wednesday by Mayor Michael Hancock.
Led by the founder of a Boulder-based investment banking firm, the rest of the team is comprised of a former Director of Operations for the Denver Public Schools and several veteran economic professionals from private and public section organizations across the Denver metro region that have volunteered their services.
Revitalizing the city’s business community has been a major part of Hancock’s plan to jumpstart the city’s economy and he said the combination of private and public financial experts is part of a new approach to addressing the city’s financial situation.
“It’s time we fundamentally change the way we do business in Denver,” Hancock said. “By creating a long-term strategic plan to attract, grow and retain businesses and provide good jobs, we will help to put the Denver metro area on its rightful path to becoming a global competitor.”
Hancock’s office said the team was assembled with the idea of refocusing and re-energizing the city’s Office of Economic Development (OED) and create a “sustainable business environment” in Denver.
The “all-stars” will conduct a research of the city’s economic situation for 45 days and present a report on their findings to Hancock within 90 days. The mayor’s office said all team members’ work will be considered volunteer hours only and the members of the team will not be compensated.
The group will be led by Paul Washington, founder and president of the LJS Capital investment firm. As director of the OED, Washington, said, he will seek to “launch the office into the 21st Century.”
“I am honored to be taking on this role and excited to build critical partnerships with businesses throughout Denver and the Front Range,” he said. “We will launch the City’s OED into the 21st Century, providing local, national and global businesses with a more efficient, more competitive Denver.”
The new OED will seek to establish Denver as “the Start-Up and Small Business Capital of the Country,” as well as an attractive location to start, expand or relocated businesses from around the nation.
Washington has the backing of Anschutz Corporation Managing Director Steven Cohen who said the LJS Capital president is “an excellent choice,” adding “His business acumen, investment banking experience and knowledge of finance makes him particularly well-suited for this position. Paul’s appointment presents a great opportunity for OED and for Paul to promote the Mayor’s vision of making Denver a centerpiece of business activity.”
Kelly Leid, a former Director of Operations for the Denver Public School, will serve as the city’s new Director of Development Services. In her previous capacity with DPS, Leid was involved in more than $800 million in new agency projects, including many new school facilities and the Metro Football Stadium District.
The OED will also benefit from several area economic experts who have also volunteered to assist Washington and Leid as advisors.
They include Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation; John Cody, president of the Longmont Area Economic Council; Mike Fitzgerald, president of the South East Business Partnership; Mike Masciola, director of economic development for the City of Thornton; and Wendy Mitchell, president and CEO of the Aurora Economic Development Council.
“All the members of the Metro Denver EDC look forward to working with the Mayor and his dedicated administration to create a new and improved OED that will provide the pinnacle of customer service and collaboration,” said Clark.