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Guest opinion: What ‘Build Back Better’ recovery could mean for Colorado

Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes and Mayor Wade Troxell
Special to the Daily

Communities across Colorado are struggling with the immense challenges of the pandemic and its severe economic impacts.

Thanks to the CARES Act adopted in March, many Coloradans were saved from immediate financial ruin, but this was a short-term fix. To reinvigorate the economy and improve the lives of all Coloradans for the long term, the next federal aid bill must include significant investments in critical infrastructure.

And because of efforts like the recent Together We Build report, we actually know what needs to be done in Colorado.

We can put people to work rebuilding the crumbling and antiquated infrastructure that plagues small towns, suburbs and cities across Colorado and the country.

Smart investment can reimagine and transform transportation, the electric grid and water systems. We can “Build Back Better” the facilities that all communities rely on: hospitals, schools, commercial buildings and homes, federal labs and military infrastructure.

Now is the time to upgrade America for the 21st century and beyond to make it safer, more efficient and more resilient. 

Creating good-paying jobs in clean energy, construction, engineering and manufacturing will fuel economic recovery now and into the future. For instance, we know that clean energy jobs have been growing twice as fast as statewide employment in Colorado.

Putting people back to work is the single most important thing we can do to restore the health and well-being of all Americans and revive the spirit that has made America great for 250 years, and using advanced energy technology to rebuild will bolster Colorado’s economic competitiveness.

Build Back Better could look like this for Colorado communities:

  • Schools retrofitted with modern HVAC systems to make classrooms healthier and make education dollars go further 
  • Hospitals modernized to improve working conditions and capacity, resulting in better health outcomes and lower health care costs
  • Emergency services facilities updated with modern clean energy storage, providing reliable backup power during outages
  • Expanded broadband, unleashing the potential of all Coloradans, including those in less affluent neighborhoods and underserved rural areas
  • Our transportation system made more resilient and safer with autonomous technology and electric vehicle charging stations throughout the state, ensuring that everyone in Colorado has access to EVs and reaps the benefits of electrification
  • Federal funding to cap abandoned wells, providing energy sector jobs while dramatically reducing harmful methane pollution
  • Supporting our businesses when they need it most through reduced operational costs; for example, in Fort Collins businesses are saving almost $10 million annually from improved efficiencies and their employees are more comfortable and productive as a result

Right now is the time to seize the future and control our destiny.

We can help communities across Colorado and the country recover. We can put Americans back to work. We can make our communities cleaner and safer. We can disrupt the trajectory of climate change.

We can be prepared for the next pandemic, natural disaster or global economic downturn. And we can build the foundation for economic growth free of the constraints of outmoded technology.

When a flood destroys a bridge, does it make sense to replace it with an identical bridge that the next flood will take out? Of course not. The smarter response is to replace it with a new bridge that will withstand the next flood.

By taking this approach in the latest recovery legislation, Colorado can also lead in creating the new technologies and industries that will fuel the economy in the decades ahead.

Congress has an opportunity — as it negotiates a new recovery package — to pass legislation that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of Americans today and moving forward.

Sarah Smith Hymes is the Mayor of the town of Avon and a registered Democrat. Wade Troxell is the mayor of the city of Fort Collins and a registered Republican. This column originally was published by The Colorado Sun, a reader-supported, statewide news site. Learn more at coloradosun.com.


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