Colorado has always been a home for pioneers
Day 5 and we’ve seen much of the beauty and ingenuity that Colorado has to offer. It’s awe inspiring.
As I think about what made Colorado great, I know it’s not technology. The state is well-known for nature — majestic, snow-capped mountains, flowing streams and whispering forests. Mesa Verde, the Rocky Mountains, the Rio Grande, sand dunes — Colorado’s is one of the top tourist destinations in the U.S. thanks to nature. Bikers, rafters, hikers, skiers all come to enjoy the state.
Technology, though, certainly made Colorado’s greatness accessible. The advent of railroad allowed Denver to evolve from a ragged frontier town to one of the largest and most successful cities in the West. Cars, buses, airplanes, and light rail only added to the accessibility of what was once a rugged, far-off land.
With technological changes we’ve seen positives changes in Colorado. We’ve seen job growth explode making the state one of the fastest growing in the country. We’ve made significant improvements in the efficiency of food production and water conservation. We’ve spun up new industries (sure, marijuana) and the evolution of old ones (like mining and energy). We’ve even made it easy to track your lines on the slopes.
Then again, Colorado has always been on the leading edge, one of the first to do things in the West. After all, Colorado was one of the first states to grant women the right to vote — many years before it was passed by the U.S. government. Colorado was one of the first states to start mining for gold and other precious metals — something that enabled the railroads to grow in the first place.
Colorado has always been a place of pioneering and our technology aspirations reflect that even today — celebrating that spirit of innovation. Silicon Valley may be the only place that can rival the strength and resolve of the startup scene Colorado’s front range with groups like Techstars, Galvanize, Boomtown and the countless startups that go it alone.
We’re people who take big risks to use technology to reach new places and opportunities. Take for example the Colorado Space Coalition (http://www.spacecolorado.org/), a group of space-focused stakeholders who believe Colorado should be a “center for space excellence.” Combined with military presence in Colorado, this industry supports 25,000 jobs in the state.
We have robotics competitions for our “Sports of the Mind,” where we put teams together in order to advance knowledge and technology. We’re known for STEM programs and jobs, taking advanced classes even into our schools and where we as a nation need more diversity, including girls.
It’s not just reaching for the stars or working with robots, we’re harnessing wind and solar power. NREL, located in Golden, is the U.S. primary laboratory for the research and discovery in renewable energy and energy efficiency. This organization alone has produced 800 licensable technologies, 50 R&D awards and has helped to transfer over a massive amount of knowledge and direction to the private sector.
Indeed, Colorado is the third highest state in the nation to hold high tech jobs. It’s the fourth highest for start-up activity — such as starting new enterprises. In my mind, it’s the first in innovation with people with enough moxie to do bold, new things.
My hope is that Colorado continues to be a place that embraces technology and its benefits. With the right application, we should be able to close the gap and ensure that more people have the chance to find good paying jobs and challenging work. Better yet, Coloradans can make the world a better place — improving renewable energy, water availability, space exploration, education, and more for everyone … even those outside of Colorado.