Vail Daily column: My view on ‘Making Colorado’
Last week, we explored the state of Colorado’s branding process, part of the Colorado Blueprint economic development plan’s attempt to build a statewide brand to unify Colorado to all stakeholders, including residents, businesses, visitors and prospective businesses.
We know that Colorado is a top tourism destination and one of the healthiest states in the nation. Colorado is home to strong aerospace and biotechnology industries and emerging natural resource industries. We also know that Colorado is a place of natural beauty, from Red Rocks and the foothills to the mountains and plains. Our wide-open spaces, our scenic byways, our natural hot springs and our high mountain passes add to the scenic beauty.
Simply being able to view the mountains from most any location within the state only adds to the natural appeal of Colorado. We are a state with 14-ers to hike, national parks to explore and are home to the best skiing in the world. Colorado is filled with vibrant small towns and communities in each of our four corners.
I’d suggest that we have so much to offer residents, businesses and visitors that the only thing boring about Colorado is the shape of the state.
But what is it that makes Colorado Colorado? Surely it’s more than natural beauty and outdoor recreation.
I was fortunate enough to move to Colorado at the age of 18, fulfilling what at that time was a nearly life-long pursuit to be a Coloradan. I was lucky to have family that lived here and spent most every vacation as a child visiting the mountains of Colorado. Growing up in Ohio was, for me, merely filling the time that I spent between my ski vacations and my summer vacations in Colorado. It was simply a detour on my journey to live in Colorado.
Colorado created an emotional connection in my young mind and became more than the sum of its parts. I don’t think it’s just me, either. Colorado has a way of sneaking into people’s minds. As John Denver famously sang, coming to Colorado is like “coming home to a place you’ve never been before.”
I doubt many other states create this strong of an emotional connection in visitors, residents and businesses alike. When I’m traveling and tell people that I’m from Colorado, people almost always want to talk about the state, our various attributes and their prior trips here. I can’t say the same thing happens when I tell people that I grew up in Ohio.
How do we capture that emotional connection and that emotional impact in the Making Colorado process?
As I learned at a young age, Colorado is our people, our arts and culture, and our vibrant recreation industry. Colorado is the ultimate playground. But we are much more than that.
I’ve learned since moving here for college and in my professional career that Colorado is a state filled with entrepreneurial spirit, a sense of can-do and collaboration. Colorado is filled with vibrant small businesses, helping create a sense of place throughout the state.
Look no further than our craft beer industry as an example of industry competitors working together in a collaborative manner, which in turn benefits each of them individually. One example among many is New Belgium Brewery, which started in a basement in Fort Collins and has grown to one of the largest craft brewers in the nation. Crazy Mountain Brewery and Bonfire Brewery are local examples of craft brewers making noise on a larger level.
Our statewide tourism industry provides another excellent example of collaboration, with various industry groups including Colorado Association of Destination Marketing Organizations and Colorado Ski County USA working together as industry partners to address workforce issues, marketing challenges or other industry challenges.
The emotional connection that residents and visitors have with Colorado helps make us far more desirable in the national, even global, marketplace.
But our physical attributes and our emotional values only go so far. The ambitious goal of this project is to engage Coloradans to help build a brand that leverages these things yet rises above to help develop a persona — an idea, a concept — that resonates across every stakeholder group. It’s ambitious, and it’s collaborative in nature; in short, it is a project that is uniquely Colorado.
What is Colorado to me? My love of the mountains has deeply moved me and has shaped the person that I am today. That’s the power of Colorado. That is the essence of what making Colorado means to me.
What does Colorado mean to you? As noted last week, visit MakingColorado.gov to share your feedback with the state as they build a brand for Colorado. Share feedback on Twitter using #makingcolorado or share feedback on Facebook at Facebook.com/MakingColorado.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.