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Colorado Doubles Down on ‘Bottom Up’

Earlier this week we highlighted Colorado’s interesting “Colorado Blueprint” experiment in “bottom up” economic development planning. And last week we noted the initiative in our  economic agenda for the state of Nevada.

Now it turns out there are intriguing new developments.

Just three months after unveiling a statewide economic strategy built out of local brainstorming, Gov. Hickenlooper released a new version of the plan that speeds up timelines, and adds more specific measurable outcomes to the plan’s 24 job creation strategies. The governor also submitted a budget proposal for FY13 that calls for additional funds to help the Economic Development Commission attract high-wage jobs and support initiatives that address distinct market barriers in the energy sector.

Initially, the “Blueprint” remained pretty informal. Without much research or anything binding, the spring’s inputs from all of the state’s 64 counties were rolled into 14 regional statements that were then aggregated into the state “Blueprint.” Overall, some 24 action items were identified that fell into six very general themes--creating a business friendly environment, recruiting and retaining and growing businesses, increasing access to capital, creating and marketing a stronger Colorado brand, educating and training the workforce of the future, and cultivating innovation and technology.

Yet now the state is stepping it up. Moving beyond the initial version of the document “Colorado Blueprint v1.0” calls for the state to:

  • Develop a comprehensive statewide industry cluster strategy in the next three months, rather than the next nine months
  • Improve the alignment of local and regional infrastructure development with economic development priorities
  • Create a structure for better engaging industry partners in promoting the Colorado brand through the International Trade and Tourism Ambassador Program

More broadly, the state’s newest version of its bottom up approach to economic development contains more explicit details, clarified leadership roles and accountability, tighter timelines, and more specific measureable outcomes on the tactics outlined in the document. 

 In that sense, a creative state is working to manage a tricky double mission.   As is critical in the “bottom-up” game a smart administration is trying to keep things iterative and collaborative and devolved while also sharpening up its plans and commitments for execution. It’s a challenge that cuts to the core of the decentralized new balance required in economic development. Colorado’s approach--just one of several state approaches to “bottom up” economic development now underway--clearly bears study in the coming months and years.