On Jan. 11, the former mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper, took an oath of office to become the 42nd governor of Colorado. He inherited a budgetary nightmare in the form of a $600 million budget shortfall for the 2011 fiscal year and a projected $1.5 billion shortfall for 2012. Budget shortfalls translate into decreased funding for public services and state funded higher-learning institutions.
In response to the issues, Hickenlooper announced his plan for â€œbottom-upâ€ economic development. He plans to focus on small businesses instead of implementing Reaganâ€™s infamous â€œtrickle-down economics,â€ which assumes that by giving tax cuts to corporations, those companies will then invest their wealth back into the company in the form of higher wages for employees. Colorado needs a genuine â€œbottom-upâ€ strategy.
While corporations and their CEOs enjoy stability, the local businesses of Colorado and their owners struggle to stay alive. Locally-owned businesses compete against corporations that receive incentives such as tax cuts to settle in Colorado towns. While some lucky local businesses have survived, many have not, as is evident by the ever-changing storefronts in Old Town.
The health of the government correlates with the health of the citizens. If individuals cannot afford to meet basic needs, neither can the government. Therefore if the state government wants to fix budgetary shortfalls, it must give incentives to local business and help individuals return to financial stability.
Local businesses benefit from deregulation. That includes less rigorous qualification standards to operate, tax cuts and more accessible loans to local entrepreneurs. Local business owners spend their money within the state, thereby stimulating the local economy. In contrast, corporations spend money outside the local economy, not helping Coloradoâ€™s economy.
If the new governor wants to become directly involved in economic development, his focus should be on green jobs. Green jobs benefit the economy and the environment because they implement efficient, sustainable strategies for industry while reducing consumption of energy, materials and water.
By encouraging the growth of green jobs, Hickenlooper can meet the need for jobs in Colorado and also make beneficial long-term investments in sustainable business practices. Green jobs will stimulate the economy and over time help decrease costs by increasing efficiency.
Hickenlooper initiated his plan for economic development the day he took office. He instantaneously gave an inauguration speech and signed three executive orders: Implementing a Statewide Economic Development Strategy, Creating the Governorâ€™s Trade and Tourism Ambassador Program and Establishing a Policy to Enhance the Relationship between State and Local Government. At first glance, these executive orders seem capable of alleviating the burden of a broken budget and lack of jobs, however, the text of each document appears mercurial, perhaps intentionally vague and lacking political clout.
The governorâ€™s â€œbottom-upâ€ strategy establishes the Office of Development and International Trade to gather suggestions for economic development from Colorado counties. Those suggestions include plans such as building a bike tour in rural Limon in order to increase tourism. Although that plan may provide a short-term boost, it neglects the root issue.
Tourism is not the backbone of Coloradoâ€™s economy. Coloradoâ€™s small business owners who earn and spend their money locally are the backbone of the stateâ€™s economy.
Remember, the health of the state depends upon the health of its citizens. Consequently, Governor Hickenlooper, if you want to light a fire in the economic hearth, promote the health of local business and become involved in the creation of green jobs that will benefit the local economy and the environment.
Courtney Stuard is a senior journalism major. Her column appears weekly in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.