Bills sink green into tourism

Economic-development package earmarks $19 million to attract more visitors to state. Officials plan worldwide ad campaigns. Other legislation to be signed by the governor will help biotechnology and job creation.

Dozens of Colorado communities, businesses and groups are poised to benefit with Gov. Bill Owens' expected announcement today of a $26.5 million economic-development package.

Among the state's biggest winners: biotechnology researchers, tourist hubs and economic-development officials.

"There is something for everyone who creates wealth for Colorado," said Brian Vogt, director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. "It's huge."

The package is composed of six bills recently passed by the General Assembly. Owens is expected to sign the bills today during a ceremony at the World Trade Center Plaza building in Denver.

The largest chunk of money, $19 million, is earmarked to promote tourism statewide.

Colorado spends about $5.5 million a year to promote tourism, a figure that ranks the state 35th nationally. Colorado will move up to sixth or seventh in the U.S. with the additional funding, Vogt said.

State tourism officials are planning national and international ad campaigns, including spots to promote adventure sports, heritage tourism and bird-watching.

"The rural areas never felt like we could play in the tourism game, so this is going to help us quite a bit," said Janet Frederick, executive director of the Kiowa County Economic Development Foundation. "Our main focuses are going to be on promoting our heritage tourism and our watchable wildlife."

Colorado ranks 23rd nationally as measured by visitors. Vogt said he hopes the ad campaign will vault the state into the top 10, a ranking not held for at least a decade.

The state's burgeoning bioscience industry will receive a one-time allocation of $2 million - far less than the $15.5 million sought by the Colorado Bioscience Association. The association lobbied for three bills, one of which passed.

House Bill 1360 provides grants of up to $150,000 to research institutions that partner with nascent bioscience companies to commercialize new discoveries. The research institutions are required to match every dollar.

"It will accelerate the development of new companies and new jobs," said David Allen, an associate vice president for the University of Colorado's Technology Transfer Office. "It's a watershed moment."

The economic-development package will deliver $3 million a year to finance job-creation incentives. Companies that generate high-paying jobs - relative to the area where the jobs are located - will receive $1,000 to $1,500 a year per job.

That is tiny compared with packages offered by Texas, Arizona or Florida, which all compete against Colorado for corporate relocations. Texas, for example, allocates $133 million a year to incentive packages, said Tom Clark, director of economic development for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

"It's still modest," he said, "but it's an enormous step forward."

The package also includes $1.5 million to promote the arts; $550,000 annually for the State Fair; and $500,000 in film- production rebates.

Staff writer Julie Dunn contributed to this report.

Staff writer Will Shanley can be reached at 303-820-1260 or [email protected].

What's funded

Gov. Bill Owens is expected to sign a $26.5 million economic-development package today. Here's a breakdown of where the money will go.

Area Amount

    • Tourism $19 million
    • Job-creation incentives $3 million
    • Bioscience $2 million Arts $1.5 million
    • State Fair $550,000
    • Film-production rebates $500,000
Reprinted with permission from the Denver Post.
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