A man stands on a stage and talks to a group of people.
J.J. Ament, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce speaks to Parker community leaders, business owners and entrepreneurs at the Parker Chamber of Commerce Economic Update Breakfast about the growing diversity in economic development. Credit: Haley Lena

Parker community leaders, large employers and business owners and entrepreneurs came together at the PACE Center in Parker for an educational event for local businesses to learn about the current economic state of Colorado and how to continue to grow. 

“We are a force to be reckoned with,” said Councilmember Joshua Rivero. “We are leaders in our county, in our region when it comes to local businesses.”

The Parker Chamber of Commerce held their annual Economic Update Breakfast, which was sponsored by CORE Electric Cooperative, among others. 

The Town of Parker has excelled in the local realm and is growing in a larger employer segment, said Rivero, as well as a growth in the national brands. 

Mandi Lesher, chief executive officer at CORE Electric Cooperative, said Parker is one of the fastest growing communities. 

“We have some of the best reliability in the state,” said Lesher. “And that District 7, which is Parker, this year has the best reliability out of our entire service territory.” 

J.J. Ament, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, leads the state’s largest privately-funded economic development organization and was one of the keynote speakers at the event. 

More than 70 cities and economic development agencies in 10 counties participate through the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation

Therefore, when talking about economic development in the region and small business development, said Ament, they are talking about metro Denver, which includes 10 counties, including Parker. 

“We work in a collaborative effort within this entire area,” said Ament. 

Through a code of ethics, the corporation aims to build a diverse industry cluster so Colorado is no longer susceptible to disruptions, which is the nation’s first regional approach to economic development.  

While Ament said he would rather tackle the challenges of economic growth as they come with resources and ideas, he has seen that Colorado’s population and growth has started to level out. 

Additionally, as the talent in Colorado has benefited the state, access to that talent needs to be improved.

Other challenges include housing being too expensive. According to Ament, the biggest risk to the Colorado economy is public policy. 

As an industry, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce concentrates on Aerospace, aviation, bioscience, broadband and digital communications, energy and natural resources, financial services, food and beverage production, healthcare and wellness, IT software, arts and culture, and outdoor recreation. 

These are the areas that have seen the most economic growth. 

To talk about innovation and entrepreneurship, Wendy Lea, co-founder and board chair for Energize Colorado, which provides resources for businesses, introduced the audience to ecosystem innovation. 

A woman points to a screen while speaking to a group of people.
Wendy Lea, co-founder and board chair of Energize Colorado talks about a few projects she has worked on and about ecosystem innovation, a strategy to drive entrepreneurship at the Parker Chamber of Commerce Economic Update Breakfast at the PACE Center in Parker. Credit: Haley Lena

“When I think about ecosystems, I think of complexity,” said Lea. “I think of stakeholders, a wide range of stakeholders.”

Ecosystem is a strategy to drive innovation, entrepreneurship and can lift a state’s strategy, said Lea, adding that in Colorado there is an advanced industry strategy. 

After businesses suffered throughout the pandemic, and although it’s not back to perfect, years later Colorado small businesses are growing as they make up 99% of all businesses, which employ over 1.2 million people, according to Lea. 

“It’s really hard to be a resilient owner in a very difficult time,” said Lea. 

The event ended with T.J. Sullivan, president and CEO of the Parker Chamber of Commerce recognizing the 2023 board of directors and its chair, Jeff Sams. 

Also recognized for their service were Michael Goebel of AventHealth Parker Hospital and Tierney Aldridge of The Denver Agency. After serving six years, they will be retiring. 

The 2024 Board of Directors for the Parker Chamber of Commerce were also elected. 

Those include Jeff Sams, Jacki Hayden, Kathy Calton, Sara Crowe, Nacole Turner, Brian Short, Jim Johnson, Josie O’Neill, Jonathan Rowlett, Tina Tomlan, Pamela Warrior and Erin Ward. 

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