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If You Love Denver Now, You Haven't Seen Anything Yet!
Gail, Klapper, Chair of the Denver Metro Chamber

I am delighted to be able to share some thoughts about the Denver Metro Chamber¹s activities with WomenOfColorado.com. What a wonderful idea and an excellent vehicle this is for us to communicate with each other.

The position of Chair of the Denver Metro Chamber offers a unique bird¹s eye view of the community through the lens of diverse business interests. My good friend, Barbara Grogan, paved the way for me in this position, having served as the first female chair of the Chamber several years ago. I am finding the position to be time intensive, intellectually challenging, interpersonally interesting and very fun. The Denver Metro Chamber is involved in issues that I care about deeply and it is a wonderful challenge to try to move some of the ideas we have been talking about for many years into public policy reality. It is also interesting to try to engage 3,300 members in a common agenda. When our community is able to coalesce around a concept, the result is enormously powerful.

Perhaps it would be interesting to you if I shared the process the Chamber went through and the decisions the Board has made with regard to its agenda for this year.

At the end of the summer, the Board of the Denver Metro Chamber came together to identify its priorities and set an agenda for its work over the next 12 months. The Chamber¹s goal is to try to focus the energy of its members on a limited number of issues so that we are able to actually make something happen. We want to hold ourselves accountable to a work plan and measure our success by what we are able to accomplish. That said, we also strive to stay sufficiently flexible to be able to address those unanticipated issues as they arise where the business community needs to be at the table.

Last year, John Scully, the 1996-97 chair of the Chamber and I got together to try to identify a two year agenda that we both could support. It was clear that continuity from year to year on public policy issues is important. Many of the public policy interests of the Chamber: transportation infrastructure, the clean up of Rocky Flats, etc. are complicated and long term in nature. It seemed important for the Chamber to be able to keep those issues on its radar screen until the desired result is achieved. In this context, its important to add that the Chamber¹s Chair-elect, David Bailey, and I have also had a conversation about a continuity agenda and he has agreed to sustain the effort on those issues that need tenacity and perseverance over more than one year.

The ability to continue the Chamber¹s focus on key issues until we get the job done is an important new ingredient for this organization and one that John Scully deserves credit for developing.

The Agenda for this year is a combination of our "continuity" issues and some new items we want to begin to address. The following are the issues that will remain Chamber priorities:

TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE

The Chamber worked very hard over this last year to help put together a program to address the State¹s transportation infrastructure problems. The Governor recently announced that the state has the necessary revenue to accomplish what we proposed through a ballot initiative. This is exciting news but there is still important work to do:

  1. Guide the Ride, the RTD transit proposal, needs to pass in November.
  2. We need to work closely with our friends in the state legislature and the Governor to develop a formula for allocating resources to fund the 28 projects statewide that have been identified as priority projects to alleviate congestion on our highways.
ROCKY FLATS CLEANUP

It isn¹t easy to attract businesses to the metro area if they are concerned about 14 tons of plutonium stored in barrels on the edge of town. Rocky Flats is an economic development issue for this community and thanks to the efforts of many business, state and local government leaders, the US Department of Energy has now agreed that Rocky Flats needs to be cleaned up - safe and free of plutonium by the year 2006. The business community must be tenacious and committed until the cleanup of that facility is complete.

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT; YOUTH AT WORK

A third item on our continuity agenda focuses on ensuring a quality workforce for our metro businesses. Our new Education Council will approach this challenge in two ways:

  1. The Chamber will put together a Resource Guide for our member businesses which describes the variety of training programs currently in place and where to find workers with skills that match a particular business¹ needs. At the same time, the Council will evaluate the training that is available in our community to ensure that we are providing the kind of education and skill building that our workers need to be employable in today¹s marketplace
  2. The Chamber will redouble its efforts to expose our young people to a positive work experience through our Youth at Work program. This gives high school students the training and mentoring they need to succeed and finds them summer jobs so that they can experience the satisfaction of a job well done.
The following represent the new issues on our work agenda have been identified by the Board as key priorities for the Chamber:

State Tax Policy

This state has addressed tax and fiscal policy piece-meal for many years. We are finding that all of the constitutional changes to our tax structure and the changes in our economy have made our state tax structure cumbersome, inefficient and in some cases contrary to our community goals. We are beginning to give money back with one hand and ask for more money for specific needs with the other. We have dramatically reduced the flexibility of the General Assembly to deal with crises and we are struggling to keep our schools and highways in good repair.

President of the Senate, Tom Norton and Representative Norma Anderson have taken an important first step in examining our tax policies as a package. This is a project in which the Chamber will become actively engaged in our effort to add a business perspective to the legislature¹s deliberations on tax policy.

Economic Development Projects

There are a number of interesting economic development opportunities for this community to explore over the course of the next year. The Chamber, through the Metro Denver Network, will be reviewing the proposal for the possible expansion of the Convention Center. We will also be focusing on the marketing of DIA, with a special emphasis on encouraging international routes to and from our new airport.

Our Economic Development Council will direct the Chamber¹s efforts on specific Economic Development Projects, including a focus on Enterprise Zones and Economic Incentives; how we can better address the Metro Area¹s challenging issues related to growth; and how we can play an active role in the proposal to build a new stadium for the Broncos.

Health Care

The delivery of health care in our community has changed very rapidly over the last few years. The Chamber wants to ensure an excellent quality of care for our citizens as the healthcare marketplace absorbs these changes. We have put together an outstanding task force of knowledgeable providers, insurers and consumers to begin to develop parameters for quality care.

Small Business

One of the Chamber¹s best kept secrets is that over 80 percent of our Chamber members are small businesses, many of them women-owned. We plan to evaluate our Chamber benefits and services for small business to ensure that our programs are responsive to their needs.

There is no question that this Chamber is going to be actively engaged in public policy, economic development and internal Chamber issues over the course of the year. We want to help create an environment where businesses can thrive. It is our hope that the business community will get involved with us as active volunteers. A broad participation on our task forces and councils is critical to our success.

We are looking forward to a year of excitem